Off-Broadway Review: “Long Lost John: A Lennon Family Story” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre

Off-Broadway Review: “Long Lost John: A Lennon Family Story” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre (Closed Saturday, August 11, 2018)
Written and Co-Directed by Eddie Zareh
Co-Directed by Carlton Cyrus Ward
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Currently running at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y, the new play entitled “Long Lost John: A Lennon Family Story” by Eddie Zareh examines the early childhood of John Lennon. It addresses the complications and grief that arose from first being taken from his mother and put in the care of his Aunt Mimi by order of Social Services and then after a reconciliation, losing his mother when she is tragically hit and killed by a police car. The plot follows a linear structure which takes on a double meaning in this circumstance. First, it follows the events in chronological order starting at one point and ending at another. The problem which emerges during this period is the lack of character development that should result from the events at hand. Second, the tone can be said to flat line, stuck on one emotion which is a consistent stream of anger. There are little pockets when a different response or sentiment attempts to creep in, but it is quickly overshadowed. It is common knowledge that anger is only one stage of grieving and the plot does touch briefly on depression – but what happened to denial, bargaining, and acceptance.

There is too little information about the emotional development of John Lennon and the effect it had on his artistic endeavors and since he is such a prominent figure in musical history much of what is told has already been exposed in literature or documentary film. Those fans who are lucky enough to have visited Liverpool are afforded even more detail about his early years. Paul McCartney who is also still grieving over the loss of his mother, is introduced as a pivotal character when forming a bond with Lennon through their music. Co-Directors Carlton Cyrus Ward and playwright Eddie Zareh fail to explore the depth of any of the principal characters leaving them one dimensional. It merely results in a fact-based plot with little dramatic support to engage the audience and coerce them to have an emotional investment. The production clearly needs a fresh creative critical eye to move forward and suffers from the dilemma of playwrights directing their own work, not allowing it to flourish.

The cast is admirable doing what it can with the material but seems contained and prohibited from exploring. The issue of childhood grieving is an intriguing and deserving subject but perhaps better served with a less complicated celebrated personality. The iconic figure dominates the work always leaving the audience wanting more. In this case what would have deserved attention is the influence of grief on the ability to create. It certainly is informative and sheds light on an important subject but just lacks a certain punch.