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Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter at Next Theatre Company | Theater review

Lily Mojekwu is a strong central figure in Julie Marie Myatt’s portrait of a Marine’s uneasy homecoming.

After a tour in the Middle East leaves her without her right leg, retired Marine Jenny Sutter (Lily Mojekwu) trades one desert for another. Afraid to go home to her mother and two children, Jenny makes her way to Camp Slab, an abandoned military base in Southern California that’s become a campsite for directionless travelers.

Julie Marie Myatt’s uneven 2008 drama requires a captivating, grounded lead actor to counteract the wave of quirky characters Jenny encounters at Camp Slab. Tough and weathered, Mojekwu can communicate Jenny’s fear of returning home in a single forlorn gaze. The play’s strongest moments put Jenny front and center. The silent, tense opening sequence of Jenny dressing herself establishes her uneasy feelings about her prosthesis. Those bottled emotions eventually rush to the surface with devastating force, but the play doesn’t spend as much time with Jenny as it should.

Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter is both a serious military drama and a kooky outsider comedy; Jessica Thebus’s cast strikes a fine balance between the two. The cartoonish supporting figures include a woman addicted to everything (Jenny Avery) and a potentially sociopathic bus-stop worker (Justin James Farley), but Thebus reins in her actors so that the personalities don’t go too over-the-top. Still, the script places too much emphasis on these side characters, keeping Jenny Sutter from the homecoming she deserves.