Last weekend, the Johnson City Community Theatre performed “I Love You Because” for the last time this season — but not without making an impression.
In a little converted church on the back end of the Tree Streets, the Johnson City Community Theatre finds itself in a comfortable, humble-rooted corner.
Though I have never been to the theatre, its location and building, at first, threw me off. I was imagining a rustic, yet modern-looking building, and what I came upon was a little Southern church located a few streets away from the hustle of the downtown scene.
Yet, I remembered the most valuable lesson: looks aren’t everything.
Inside, the building has a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere, and the stage is as intimate as a stage can be. It is not raised like most stages, but rather, had the close and personal relationship the JCCT means to share with the audience.
Directed by Daniel Harr, “I Love You Because” is intended to be a spin-off musical of the popular novel by Jane Austen, “Pride and Prejudice.” Though there isn’t much similarity between the musical and the novel, the musical turned into something more than I expected.
At first, everything started out simple — the setting, the props, the plot. All of it was cute and quaint, and I thought I had the entire musical figured out. I was wrong again. Instead, the plot contained its own little dynamic that I had not expected: The girl in love turned away her beloved so she could figure what true love really is.
The story of two young couples coming to love each other, despite their differences, is rather cliché, but the theme of finding love on your own time caught me off guard. The emotional chord it struck within me is just what any writer and director hopes to produce in their audience. The truthfulness of the musical is what made it stand out from the rest of the romantic comedies. Though the humor was light and effective, it was the depth of the musical that truly gave it meaning.
On top of it all, the songs were well written and well sung. The actors were not only proficient in their characters, but their songs contained personality. They sang with real emotion, and I felt every word, whether it was a solo, a duet or a six-piece harmony.
The simple choreography that accompanied the music was just as efficient without all of the complexities. The spins, turns and shifting positions of the characters breathed more life and meaning into the personalities on stage.
From now on, JCCT has my recommendation. Their support of local actors and the acknowledgment of the importance of the arts fits perfectly here in Johnson City.
“I Love You Because” made my Thursday night a better one, but it also enlightened me on the prospects of the playhouse. I hope the theatre will continue raising their bar, because tonight, they have set it at excellent heights.