Encore Michigan

‘Jenny’s House of Joy’ kicks off The Dio’s ninth season with all-women comedy

Review February 07, 2022 Patrice Nolan

PINCKNEY, Mich.— It’s 1871 in Baxter Springs, Kansas, and the working girls at Jenny’s House of Joy are bracing for the onslaught of cowboys driving large herds of steer to the northern markets. They know from experience that the men will be largely indistinguishable from the cattle – smelly, dirty, and horny. Enter Natalie, a refined young woman on the run from her abusive husband in St. Louis. She needs income and a bed. Jenny can provide the bed for her to make the income.

The Dio dinner theatre in Pinckney opens the doors on its ninth season with this sharply crafted western/comedy by the prolific Norm Foster. Directed by Steve DeBruyne, the show’s clever dialog, colored by euphemistic talk of the trade, is paced to provoke a steady stream of laughter. Better yet, the play rises above the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold trope by giving each character a moment of self-discovery, with a gritty undercurrent that the story arc delivers.

Beth Mitchell (left) and Molly Cunningham (right)

A show like this is impossible without a strong cast, and DeBruyne delivers. Diane Hill, who is masterful in any role, is delightful as the curmudgeonly Frances – a woman who sees the world as it is and relies on whiskey to blur that view as needed. Annika Anderson, as Anita, is the sweet and sunny girl who reads 19th Century Russian novels, all to ready herself for the more genteel future she believes is her destiny. Molly Cunningham, as Natalie, makes the biggest on-stage transformation as the only one at Jenny’s who has in fact lived a genteel life and must now make it in this unsettling new world. Beth Mitchell, as the eponymous Jenny, is a shrewd business woman and part-time den mother – both demanding and protective of her girls. Amy Schumacher, Assistant Director, takes on the role of Clara, the disgruntled wife of one of Jenny’s patrons, in a brief but compelling performance.

This is a simple, professionally designed show, with Set, Lighting and Sound Design by Matt Tomich, Costumes by Norma Polk, Wigs by Rachael Cupples, and Props by Eileen Obradovich.

Clearly, this is not a show for juveniles or anyone troubled by the language that is certain to arise in a whore house. That said, there are no explicit sex scenes, scanty costumes, or moments more disturbing than one in which the women collectively experience their first hot dog and realize what (who) it reminds them of.

If you are ready to embrace live entertainment once again, we highly recommend this show. Note that masks are required for all guests, regardless of vaccination status, and table seating will be limited to your party only. Jenny’s House of Joy runs weekends through February 27 with a special show on Monday, Valentine’s Day. Shows are selling out, so contact The Dio to reserve a table now. Doors open at 6:15 and dinner is served at 6:30. Enjoy.

Week of 8/15/2022

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