Rapid-fire 'Johnny' A Still-relevant Political Satire At Monomoy

By: Joan Tacke Aucoin

Topics: Local Theater

"Off the record, any Chronicle men around?"  Both the Star and Bulletin are in the governor's back pocket during his run for U.S. Senate in an unnamed southern state, but not the crusading Chronicle in Monomoy Theatre's production of “Johnny On A Spot.”

Ellen Fiske, playing Chronicle publisher Mrs. Wigmore, marches right into the offices of Governor Jefferson Davis Upjohn to confront his chief of staff Nicky Allen (Jack Plozay) with the threat of a $5 million lawsuit over the missing disbursement receipts for the new maternity hospital, the signature piece to the governor's campaign.  Allen counters with a threat to keep the Chronicle off the streets and newsstands.

"Elect Johnny Senator" posters are late, too.  And now Mayor Lovett (Scott Hamilton) has taken the Chronicle's side.  Allen needs to dispose of the mayor and the Chronicle quickly.  Allen and the governor's beautiful secretary Julie Glynn (Caroline Jackson) can only handle one crisis at a time, not to mention the governor and his mistress Pearl LaMonte (Arlene Bozich) who are missing in action. Is His Excellency responding to the “royal blood” again?  Johnny is sitting pretty in the polls. "Everyone knows they never arrest Senators.  They only investigate them," dismisses Jack.

Monomoy Theater concludes its 81st summer season with a timely and seemingly not-so-dated spoof on the American political campaign system in Charles MacArthur's comedy.  Co-author with Ben Hecht on hits "The Front Page" and "Twentieth Century," MacArthur failed to achieve critical success in his solo attempt at satirical farce.  "Johnny" closed on Broadway after only a four-day run in 1942. Hartt School of Drama hopefuls have re-imagined "Johnny" with some local color – heavy on the Chronicle emphasis.  Director MichaelJohn McGann's flair for comedic timing elevates Hartt students (and more mature guest actors) in a showcase of humorous fan-like splay to our human frailties.

Plozay exudes star power playing the calculating campaign chief who covers for the governor 24/7.  Plozay is sharp, handsome, efficient, strong, bold and appealingly likable with his rapid-fire delivery and detail juggling.  Jackson is pretty and perky in the role of secretary and Allen's office love-interest.  Madeleine Stevens is Judge Webster's attractive but spoiled niece Barbara who schemes to remove Julie from the office and Allen's heart. The trio are well-balanced and perfectly cast.

Artistic Director Alan Rust commands in Southern white attire with pet macaw at hand as the physician and reluctant politician who blossoms to cover for both the governor's physical and legal ailments.  Scott Hamilton is more serious while siding with the Chronicle in exposing corruption in the role of Mayor Lovett who rises to the occasion.  Terry Layman's Judge Webster steals the show with his over-the-top endorsement speech to the "Honorable, Best Friend You Have" radio introduction to the Governor's pre-recorded campaign speech. Fiske is determined to use the power of the press to root out evil as Chronicle publisher,  a strong woman in a world of strong men. True Chronicle editor Tim Wood plays a reporter who demands to know the whole story.

Lou Maloof plays the prison warden who escorts master criminal forger Dapper Brown (Gavin McNicholl) to help save everyone's bacon. Billy Saunders, Jr. is very funny as the governor's Italian chauffeur Pepi Pisano who is the only clue to the whereabouts of the man of the hour. Pearl LaMonte, the stunning Arlene Bozich, only has some of the answers while becoming a true femme fatale.

Mac Westcott's Ben Kusick employs the governor's counsel to "burn those files" and just made me laugh upon his every entrance. Cheers to the entire ensemble: Nate Healey, Daniel Shea, Karis Gallant, Tyler Pisani, Justin Haupt, Nathan Thomas, Chris Bailey, Alex Allison, Mark Lawrence, Jayke Workman,  Gregory Rodriquez, Todd Cashdollar, Chris Bailey, and Tyler Grigsby who added supporting roles to "heal the wounds of petty political partisanship."

Monomoy Theater spins, spins, spins "to the biggest political scandal that took place anywhere" just as we enter the 2016 presidential campaign season. Although “Johnny On A Spot” is set in 1941, with lines like “politics is no place for women,” its political satire still resonates.