San Francisco Fringe 2017
“Faulkner once said that in the South the past is not dead, it isn’t even the past. Come and enjoy some Flannery O’Conner-style stories from the plantation South. These are the kinds of stories you used to hear sitting on back porches listening to crickets and smelling honeysuckle when the adults thought you were sleeping. They are also the kind of stories that if your mama knew you were telling, she’d kill you.”
Christina Jacqueline Johns is from Georgia in the South, she tells us. She is demure and sitting on a stool centre stage. She continues that in the South it’s all about hospitality and she is proud of this – then gently lets us know about a few other people from the South, such as Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, yes the very one we have heard of in today’s political scene – as well as several characters that feature in her book Love Stories for Wilkes Ferry.
Johns is animated, smart, vibrant, chatty, precise in word choice and matter of fact in her warm soft-spoken storytelling style.
All of a sudden, Ronda Lee who has five cats bursts into conversation! Then we learn how one’s environment foreshadows one’s manners – and accent. The narrative and dialogue goes back and forth crisply as Johns leads us into her world of characters from the past and present.
With the tinge of politics already emanating through one of the stories, Trump comes up another time, in the most polite of ways. Additional characters include a misfit or two and some colorful relatives.
In the South people get to know everyone and everything they do and Johns discourses about her neighbors and acquaintances with intuitive descriptions and observations. Johns has good timing and knows exactly how much to say to elicit an image in our minds of each character. Her use of language is vibrant and alive. She is relatable, opinionated and amusing! Johns uses natural gestures skillfully, she also has a sparkle in her eye and tells her stories with wit, sarcasm and irony. Johns is like a friend telling tales in her living room!
Lights dim fleetingly in between stories, as if we are turning to a new chapter. The repertoire and variety of stories and anecdotes is deep and wide ranging from family ancestry beliefs about the civil war, grandmother’s yarns about rituals and traditions, and humorous tales.
Johns takes on each character by swift changes of her voice in her fluid and sincere way. While this one-woman show is well crafted, beautifully performed and is very entertaining it is also thoughtful and impactful – especially at the end of one compelling story when she asks “What is the effect of war?”
The last story is excellent! It’s fascinating, poignant and full of mystery. It is as if we each become her confidante as Johns delicately shares what happens.