Before taking in Nan Loves Jerry there’d been cautioning as the first night was ‘just a preview’. Preview or not Sherry White and Sue Kent have put together a terrifically entertaining presentation. The show struck a delicate balance between tongue in cheek humour with moments that almost seemed raw and delicate.

Sue Kent as Jerry

Sue Kent as Jerry

Nan Loves Jerry is a one person show that’s both written and performed by Kent. The initial character, Jerry, is the one that anchors the show and is by far the more publicly recognizable of the two. In fact, there was no expectation to see anyone other then Jerry, though that was quickly dispelled when lights went up revealing a bed with none other then Nan herself in it. Although “Nan” was only physically present three times, her character is who ultimately lent weight to the plotline.

First introduction to Kent and Jerry was through a short video Kent had made with director Jordan Canning when the ideas for a full script were still nothing more then conceptual. The video was entertaining in its own right but seemed to lack the depth needed for a full show. A second presumption quickly destroyed as it was so easy to laugh and listen to Nan as if she was family. She brought up her own values in a tidy bundle, clearly important to her as they were listed a good three or four times when the moment invited her to do so, even with slightest opportunity. They showed a younger side, even in her aged wisdom. Kent delivered Nan’s values as though they were meant to be adhered to but also with the slightest uncertainty and variation each time so it was questionable as to whether she herself followed them.

It makes sense to look at Jerry and understand why he is the way that he is. Kent’s worked hard to show that people are products of their environments. But more touching is how she’s demonstrated that it’s possible to find emotional profundity within people typically dismissed casually by general society. Jerry is abrasive, rude, and vulgar in many ways at many times. But it seems Kent has written the show with ‘excess’ in mind, an accessory in her execution of comedy.

Even though Jerry is less then colloquial when speaking about women and hardly graceful about how he goes after ‘Brown Eyes’ (a young woman whom he tries to woo in his spare time away from Nan’s errands for bananas). A scene comes to mind with Jerry hovering over a series of five or so cordless phones in Nan’s bathroom, trying to rotate handsets to call her so as to seem a little less compulsive. Jerry’s actions aren’t always the best thought out plans but more precious were the seconds where his motivations for doing so shone through almost defensively.

Nan Loves Jerry was pensively creative and made full use of a completely stripped stage space. The legs and all curtains had been removed and the full black space was turned into an imaginative playground. Kent pulled on just enough to set a room’s tone and left creating the rest of the space up to the audience. The creation of the bathtub scene was brilliant, using the old cot style bed to double as the tub draped in white fabric with a portable very classic 360 degree chrome shower curtain stand. Kent then climbed on top of the bed and poked through the curtains as Nan.

While this was an invariably creative way to create the tub space, Kent then led into a conversation between Nan and Jerry. She stood on the bed to poke out over the top of the curtain, becoming Jerry in the shower. Understandably, the dialogue between the two moved too quickly for her to have gone from standing in the shower as Jerry to poking out through the curtains again as Nan. So the solution was to just look left for Nan speaking and right for Jerry. The profile approach did work very well, but it seemed like the setting should have changed to accommodate that part. This is probably a fair place to also admit that taking in Nan Loves Jerry was a first time experience at a one-person show; and there was an effort to keep reminded of that fact.

It would be unfair to not give a nod to the fantastic lighting design as well. It was nothing extraordinary, but again, creative approaches to making the space work and encouraging the audience to envisage their own familiar reality, or in a personal case, the various settings from the YouTube short as they seemed to fit easily enough. The lighting was framed to form boarders and blocks on the stage that created doors, which worked particularly well for the many times Jerry was buzzed in (often after 11pm much to Nan’s chagrin).

The highlight for many though was likely the first of three times Jerry picked up his bicycle with almost celebrity audience appeal. Before switching from Nan to Jerry, after trading in the bright pink fuzzy house coat for Jerry’s signature blue windbreaker suit, Kent unapologetically turned around to face the audience, sharply putting on a mascara moustache with two confidant strokes. It takes guts to bare all and perform personal work on stage and while Nan Loves Jerry may not be flawless, it was performed extremely well, showing Kent’s incredible diversity as an actor.

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