Playhouse’s ‘John Lennon’ Takes a Snapshot of Society

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – “The Day They Shot John Lennon” makes its point, even if its title is a bit misleading.

First of all, the play takes place the day after the Beatles guitarist was assassinated. And it’s not about Lennon, but the people who stand vigil to mourn his death.

John Lennon is certainly a part of what’s going on, said Frank Martin, director of the play, but he isn’t the focus.

The action takes place in 1980 in front of The Dakota, the New York apartment building where Lennon lived, where a group of strangers has gathered.

“These characters are the heart of the play because each one represents a different facet of America in 1980,” Martin said. But even though it takes place four decades ago, modern audiences will see that the characters can be transferred to today’s world.

“In other words,” Martin said, “nothing has really changed in 42 years.”

The Valley premiere of the drama will open Friday in the Moyer Room at The Youngstown Playhouse.

Martin first read “John Lennon” 22 years ago and has wanted to direct it ever since.

“I found the script again during the COVID lockdown, reread it and thought, ‘hmmmmm, it is still doable?’”

The answer, he realized, is yes.

“There are some dated references, but the themes still ring true,” he said.

 The play was written in 1982 by James McClure and premiered in 1983. It deals with racism, sexism, war, capitalism and other hot-button issues that persist to this day.

“We thought we have grown but we really haven’t,” Martin said.

The playwright focuses on the interactions between four sets of characters, all strangers, who have been drawn to The Dakota.

“There’s a wonderful interaction between an 80-year-old White man and a 20-something Black man,” Martin said. “It’s fun to watch and my favorite part of the show.”

Audiences will get to know each of the characters as the play unspools.

“It leads up to all nine coming up on stage for the ending,” Martin said. “Tensions rise and we find out something deep about one of the characters. The others have an epiphany and realize maybe we’re not all so different.”

The cast includes Eric Kibler, Chris DeFrank, Brandy Johanntges, Carl Brockway, Terry Shears, Arcale Peace, Joshua Yoder, Meredith Pallo and Cyrus Dzikowski.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11, 12, 18 and 19; and 2:30 p.m. Nov.13 and 20.

Tickets are $17 (plus a $3 fee) and can be purchased at the DeYor box office, downtown; by phone at 330 788 8739 and at youngstownplayhouse.org.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.