“Jonin’ ” is the colorful and often vicious art of warring with words. Among fraternity brothers Steve (Terrell Tilford), Duffy (Rugg Williams), Greg (Maurice McRae), Eddie (Casey “Twist” Lee) and QT (Eugene Williams), jonin’ is a nonstop, high-voltage, take-no-prisoners way of life that is usually as harmless as it is persistent.
Not all the brothers, though, are equally capable of handling this constant barrage to their still immature egos. The playwright has sketched a compelling portrait of emerging adults whose posturings mask the demons of pressure-filled lives and uncertain futures.
Brown doesn’t offer enough variation on this one-note theme, however, and when the unending rage of words and pranks eventually leads to tragedy, it is with inevitable predictability.
The performances are another matter. Director Ford keeps his ensemble highly charged, poised between dramatic tension and controlled comedic fury. Williams is particularly effective as the diminutive QT, a bantam rooster who is always operating at full throttle. And Lee offers a compelling portrayal of Eddie, whose bravado cannot conceal a deep-rooted sense of inferiority.
A highlight of the show is the fraternity brothers’ “step” routine, choreographed with hilarious inventiveness by LeRoi Holmes Jr. The five frat brothers prove as adept with their feet as they are with their mouths.
Mitigating all the good efforts of this cast are the painfully inadequate set , lighting and sound designs. The set, in particular, with its flimsy doorjambs and disintegrating telephone, competes with the cast members for laughs — the wrong kind. Even no set at all would have been more believable.