nytheatre.com review by Roger Nasser
September 19, 2008
Love Jerry, presented by The New York Musical Theatre Festival, JT Arbogast, and Works Productions, is a very profound and moving piece that grapples with a very sensitive issue with great honesty. It should not be missed. Love Jerry is about a family dealing with child molestation. It revolves around two brothers, Mike and Jerry, who have to deal with issues from their past and reconcile their relationship when Jerry is accused of sexually abusing his young nephew, Andy. Love Jerry is a music-play that will really make you think.
Love Jerry is only 90 minutes long but the story will stay with you for a long time. The characters are rich and it gives almost everyone's side of the story without judgments. I loved the relationship between Jerry, Mike, and Kate (Mike's wife). The play moves back and forth in time but is extremely easy to follow. The subject matter could have easily bordered on melodrama but luckily that doesn't happen in Love Jerry.
The cast does a truly amazing job. Harris Doran is outstanding at capturing the tortured heart of Jerry. Doran's portrayal is honest and he does a great job playing such a complex character. He moves easily from rational adult to the childlike qualities of someone with emotional problems. Doran has a beautiful voice and I was really moved by him in the songs "I Can Teach You" and "Love/Poison." JT Arbogast is terrific as the conflicted Mike. Arbogast gives a very touching performance as the family man who has to deal with his pedophile brother. Donna Lynne Champlin is magnificent as Kate, who senses that there might be something wrong. Champlin's portrayal of Kate is so thoughtful and sincere, and she nearly brought the house down during "Cry." Champlin is a pleasure to watch—I love her quirkiness in the lighter parts of the show and her strength when Kate has to deal with the harsh realities of what has happened to her family. I also really love the way that these three actors interact with one another. Doran, Arbogast , and Champlin have really great chemistry. Arbogast and Champlin are a lovely couple and it was difficult to see their relationship struggle. They shine on the song "Arbor Avenue."
Annalyse McCoy is adorable as Sheila, Kate's Christian friend from work who gets set up with Jerry. She supplies a lot of the much-needed levity in the play. Jonas Cohen is extremely creepy (in a good way) as Clowny, a character inside Jerry's head. Katrina Yaulkey is amazing as Mrs. Harris, Jerry's psychiatrist. McCoy, Cohen, and Yaulkey are not only gifted actors but also gifted musicians who supply the music throughout the show. Yaulkey is a true virtuoso, playing the accordion, guitar, clarinet, and flute.
I especially love the way that the character of Andy is treated. There is no child actor playing the part, which is great. It would have been very difficult to watch a child on the stage having to deal with everything. Instead, the other actors that have to interact with Andy do so by talking to the space he would be in—it was very believable and Andy was very present throughout the play.
Hilary Adams has done a great job directing this music-play. She leads a very talented cast and handles the material with ease and sensitivity. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more great work from her.
Love Jerry is eloquently written by Megan Gogerty, who also wrote the lyrics and the music. Gogerty's script is great. She's written real people in a situation that is extremely difficult. I love the relationships she's created and the characters that she's given life to. I was amazed by Love Jerry. It could have easily been like a melodrama or an after-school special but what Gogerty wrote is a very thoughtful and honest piece about a problem that plagues a lot of families. I look forward to seeing more works from her.