Stage Roles: "Johnny on the Spot"

Staged reading 2001; theatre premiere 2002. Characters: Fred, the doctor, and Sy

RB at the Matrix; JOTS post-card[12 Aug 02] *** The cast of "Johnny on the Spot" performed its Los Angeles finale on Saturday, Juy 20th, ending an eight-week run at the Matrix Theatre  *** -- Richard played two credited roles -- Fred and Sy -- and one uncredited (the doctor) in the Neil Landau-written "comedy-drama about the fear of responsibility and missed opportunities as a young man journeys through the past, present and future."

Directed by Jules Aaron, the play was staged at the Matrix Theatre, located at 7657 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. "Johnny on the Spot" (JOTS) ran from Saturday, May 25th through Saturday, July 20th, with four shows per week -- Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. During its eight-week run, JOTS garnered its fair share of critical acclaim, including Los Angeles Times Critics' Choice, where the Theater Beat review titled  "Johnny Takes a Seriocomic Journey to Maturity,"  (by David C. Nichols) included the words "inspired," "superb," and "immensely satisfying," with the cast described as "wonderful."

** Did you enjoy "Johnny on the Spot"? Then let the producers know! ** -- With the Los Angeles run of JOTS now over, the folks at JOTS Productions would like to take the play across the country. Postcards and notes from pleased playgoers and appreciative attendees could prove to be of assistance with interested theatre companies, so take a few minutes to write the producers of "Johnny on the Spot" at:

JOTS Productions
9036 Elevado Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Review by David C. Nichols -- "Johnny Takes a Seriocomic Journey to Maturity," Los Angeles Times, Theater Beat, dated May 31, 2002.  URL: (The article no longer appears to be accessible online at )

"The opening image of  'Johnny on the Spot,' now at the Matrix, is a glowing joint, followed by the toker's radio-announcer intonations. Thus the title character of Neil Landau's new play about a Peter Pan-syndrome poster boy's journey to maturity is introduced.

Johnny (Jason Brooks) fears conformity, as he directly informs us, but the box is closing in. Neither his long-suffering, pregnant girlfriend (Helen Cates) nor his pill-packing mother (Miriam Flynn) think Johnny is ready for fatherhood. Having just lost his insurance job, he quite agrees.

Enter three dead policyholders (Flynn, Richard Burgi and Cort McCown) who have arrived from limbo to send Johnny on a surreal excursion through past, present and future. Taking in, among others, his dead father (Hugh O'Gorman) and unborn scion (Shane Hunter, alternating with Travis Mannon), Johnny's cosmic sojourn leads to catharsis.

Director Jules Aaron stages this post-Durang parable with sleek expertise. The design scheme is superb, with John Iacovelli's set, J. Kent Inasy's lighting, John Zalewski's sound and Shon LeBlanc's costumes all spot-on.

The cast is wonderful. Brooks, balancing priceless stoner moments with inner anguish, is marvelously attuned to the affecting Cates. Burgi, McCown and O'Gorman effortlessly negotiate their seriocomic shifts. Hunter is charming, and Flynn's locomotive delivery hijacks the house.

Landau's quirky, assured script carries post-larval incongruities, the ghosts erratically integrated and Johnny's narration evaporating midstream. But merely the emotional tug of the inspired denouement disarms criticism, as does the immensely satisfying trip it concludes."

Excerpt from review by Don Grigware -- NoHoLa, Theatre section, dated June 6, 2002, Vol 4/ Issue 19

"Jason Brooks makes an affable Johnny, but the production's true joy comes out of the supporting cast. Miriam Flynn has that rare ability -- like Maggie Smith or Harriet Harris -- of walking onstage, uttering one word and getting huge laughs. As Mom/Mrs. Tollins, she joins the ranks of the comedic diva. Stunning Richard Burgi could play the menacing Sy in his sleep, but it is with Fred, the slow-moving, cigar chewing deadman, reminiscent of George Burns, that Burgi treads new ground as a fine character actor. Hugh O'Gorman as Joe plays the pivotal role of father, straightforward and unsentimental. Robert Young and Fred MacMurray would be proud. Cort McCown and Shane Hunter/Travis Mannon round out the splendid ensemble. Jules Aaron's direction is impeccable, as is the attractive set by John Iacovelli. Should be the sleeper hit of the season!"

Storyline and casting details

"Johnny is in trouble. His girlfriend is pregnant with his baby, but he's far from 'father material,' and terrified to step up to the plate. To make matters worse, he was abruptly fired today from his job as a life insurance adjustor; actually, he was blacklisted from the entire insurance industry for playing Robin Hood and committing fraud. When his girlfriend offers him an ultimatum and walks, Johnny hits rock bottom. Tonight, with the help of some of his dearly departed life insurance clients, he must go on an odyssey into his painful past, chaotic present, and uncertain future to unscramble the static that is part of the omnipresent radio broadcast inside his head. Tomorrow morning, he will make the biggest decision of his life..."

RB and JOTS castmates
  • Richard Burgi as Fred/Sy/the doctor
  • Jason Brooks as Johnny
  • Miriam Flynn as Mom/Bridge/Mrs. Tollins
  • Hugh O'Gorman as Joe

[JOHNNY]  CAST -- ACTOR JASON BROOKS. 38. A life insurance adjustor. A boyishly good-looking, charismatic pothead. Anxious to find his place in the world and to understand humanity -- but doesn't have a clue. Loves Drea truly, madly, deeply...

[DREA/DOT/FANTASY MOM] CAST -- ACTOR HELEN CATES. 38. Johnny's girlfriend. A nursery school teacher. Pretty in a gamine, off-beat way. Effortlessly sexy, confident, tolerant to a point -- but don't push her. Lives for structure...

[MOM/BRIDGE/MRS. TOLLINS] CAST -- ACTOR MIRIAM FLYNN. 50ish. Bridge: a tough, hard-living broad who always says what's on her mind. Mom: overmedicated and lives in denial...

[FRED/SY] CAST -- ACTOR RICHARD BURGI. 50ish. Fred: morose and disappointed by love. Sy: his charm and bravado mask his true psychosis...

[RAY/DEAN] CAST -- CORT MCCOWN. 40. Ray: flamboyant, whimsical, naughty, flaky, utterly self-absorbed. Dean: angry, macho, materialistic, always horny -- all covers for his wounds...

[JOE] CAST -- ACTOR HUGH O'GORMAN. 39. Johnny's late father. A man's man. Laconic, paternal. Slight Brooklyn accent...

[JOEY] CAST -- ACTORS SHANE HUNTER & TRAVIS MANNON. 12. On the verge of 13. Athletic, rebellious, but wants and needs his dad's approval...

(Thanks to Richard, JOTS Productions, Kat, MJ, and the many people who helped us find information on JOTS)
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