Javon Johnson Packs a Powerful Punch in “STILL.” at Pasadena Playhouse

Theatre review

PHOTO: Jeff Lorch | South Pasadena News | Javon Johnson performs "STILL." on stage at Pasadena Playhouse.

Master of spoken word, Javon Johnson, takes to the bare stage inside Pasadena Playhouse for a one man show that is an emotionally raw exploration of growing up Black in Los Angeles. “Still.”, written and performed by Johnson, is a series of stories and poems that takes you on a journey into the heart and mind of a young black man on the cusp of fatherhood during the pandemic. We see him as a young kid, teenager, young man and now a maturing young man as he navigates his relationships with his father, a dying uncle, his mother, an aging grandmother, his friends, his heroes and his unborn daughter. Johnson makes you sometimes feel like you are on a wild rollercoaster, holding on for dear life as his intricate words ricochet across the stage, seething with anger, frustration and sadness. But then, all at once, he draws you in with a soft vulnerability that beautifully radiates a deep-seated joy. It is a thrill to watch and is deftly directed by Donny Jackson.

PHOTO: Jeff Lorch | South Pasadena News | Javon Johnson in “STILL.” at Pasadena Playhouse.

During the pandemic, we have gotten used to taking in much of the arts by live zoom sessions or streams. This is not that. Pasadena Playhouse pivots beautifully by producing fresh, original content with terrific production values. “Still.” is filmed on an empty stage at the Playhouse where the Playhouse itself becomes a character, as the empty seats are a stark reminder of the times we are living in. Johnson performs to an empty house but the performance feels urgent. We can almost feel how much the artist needs to break through the barrier of the empty theatre to reach the audience. It is an incredibly moving experience and one that I highly recommend. It’s good for the soul to see new works being produced and is a way for us to see some great theatre and continue to support artists and theatres right now.

PHOTO: Jeff Lorch | South Pasadena News | Javon Johnson performs “STILL.” on stage at Pasadena Playhouse.

Still. can be rented through PlayhouseLive for $19.99 and is available through November 1, 2020.  After the initial purchase, Still. can be watched on any of the PlayhouseLive apps including Apple OS, Android OS, Roku, FireTV and more. Closed captioning is available in both English and Spanish.

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Additional information about PlayhouseLive and its programming, including new announcements and pricing specials, are available at www.playhouselive.org.