On Friday, March 24th, I attended the 8:00 pm sold-out opening night showing of NOMADS’ newest musical, John & David.

John & David, written by James Pecore (CC ‘23), attempts to take the biblical story of Jonathan and David, a tale of enduring friendship, and retell it into a queer love story of two childhood friends and their reunion as freshmen in college. The musical was directed by Daniella Sapone (BC ‘25) and produced by Diana Gregoire (CC ‘23).

The story focuses on John (Jalen Ford, CC ’23), introduced as an artist, and David (Maxwell Seelig, CC ’26), a lacrosse player; their relationship began as childhood friends. After not seeing each other for years, the two reunite as college freshmen. Upon one of their first interactions after David’s lacrosse ball breaks a window in John’s studio and he runs in to apologize, the conversation is awkward, and the tension is palpable. John’s romantic feelings for David are clear from the beginning; however, David’s feelings do not seem to be the same, and when John asks David to model for his painting, he turns him down. However, this quickly proves false as David showcasing his regret for this decision changes his mind. However, John is not the only romantic prospect in David’s life, as David’s girlfriend from high school, Kate (Luisa Nahr, BC’ 25), is introduced. 

It is now their sophomore year of college, and John and David see each other at some sort of school dance after being away all summer. The characters are dancing, drinking, and appearing to have a good time when John shockingly kisses a girl. David sees this and is upset, angrily confronting John with the accusation, “You painted her too.” John adamantly refuses, stating that she only kissed him to make someone else jealous and saying, “Dude, I’m gay!”, successfully putting David’s concerns at bay. 

One day, when David is supposed to model for John, Kate appears instead, delivering the news that David has broken his wrist playing lacrosse. Kate confronts John about the time that he and David have been spending together, and in a somewhat surprising revelation, reveals that she knows about him and David having feelings for each other and has known for a long time that David was gay. After this confrontation, David comes to see John in the studio with his broken wrist, and it is here that he and John finally share a kiss to the audience’s cheers and excitement. However, things are too good to be true as at the end of Act I, David finds out that John is studying abroad in Italy next year. 

Act II begins, and it is their junior year; John is in Italy studying painting, and David is home at school. While John seems to be still stuck on David and their relationship, it becomes clear that their relationship ended before John went to Italy, as David finds another man named Sebastian at school.

When John returns home, it is their senior year. Kate, John, David, and their new boyfriends Sebastian and Paul are all seated around a table at a restaurant. Kate is trying to individually convince John and David that they don’t like these guys and want to be with each other. Paul and Sebastian go to the bathroom, and when they are away for a bit too long, Kate, David, and John figure out in a funny revelation that they must be hooking up. Eventually, after more conversations with Kate, John reveals his portrait of David to everyone’s oohs and aahs, and the play ends with David asking John, “next year do you want to paint something together?”

The show is ambitious and attempts to tackle a great deal; in its approximately two-and-a-half-hour run time, the plot covers all four college years, Act I containing freshman and sophomore years, and Act II having junior and senior years. However, in attempting to tackle such a significant period in the lives of these characters, the plot takes frequent and significant jumps in the timeline, leaving me at times feeling confused. For example, the first time we see John and Kate interact, she is somewhat cold towards him and confronts him about his relationship with her boyfriend at the time, David. And the next time we see them interact is when John is abroad in Italy, and he and Kate share a phone call where they speak as though they are incredibly close friends.

Despite the plot progression issues, this did not take away from the music. The songs provided deep emotional moments and allowed the actors to shine on stage. My favorite musical numbers were, “The Pencil,” an emotional song where David tightly gripping one of John’s pencil’s that he failed to return to him as he drives home, sings powerfully, lamenting his regrets over turning John’s proposal down. “The River,” is a beautiful and moving musical number where John and David reminisce on their childhood pasts. And “Knowing,” a piece where Kate truly shines. The lyrics are introspective and Kate comes across as deeply multifaceted, expressing her vulnerability and providing depth to her character while singing about her relationship with David. 

Though individually, the characters’ performances flourished, the characters’ interactions with each other differed. John and David’s romantic relationship is the primary focus of the plot, and their dynamic on stage should reflect this. While at the beginning of the story, the awkward tension between the characters is solid and fitting and seems purposeful. As the show and their relationship progressed, this dynamic proved to be more incidental.  

A standout performance that stood out to me was that of ensemble member Daisy Burckin (BC’ 26). In a scene during the first act, Kate seeks advice from her friends after revealing that she had hooked up with David the prior evening. The scene begins with Burkin providing moments of comedic relief, sitting on their bed attempting to convince her girlfriend (Ella Wickham CC’ 25) that they need more ‘squishmallows,’ eliciting many laughs from the audience. However, after Kate comes in, Burkin’s character sends their girlfriend off the go and makes tea for them, and has a profoundly emotional and honest conversation about her relationship with their girlfriend, describing a beautifully intimate moment during their relationship. In this scene, Burkin is able to infuse lightness and humor as well as provide depth and feeling into the story, efficiently displaying their acting prowesses. 

Within the plot, something barely directly addressed was queerness and the act of coming out. While John does reveal to David that he is gay in the first Act, David’s “coming out” is different. David is revealed to have been in a relationship with Kate throughout high school, and it is only ever revealed to be queer by Kate when she reveals that she has always “known,” and then John and David kiss. However, David himself never addresses his queerness, nor is queerness ever a central plot point in the show. This choice in writing to normalize queerness and queer love was interesting as it diverged from traditional media portrayals and provided representation for queer people in a way that didn’t center on them being queer.

The show attempted to address many significant themes, one of those being names. According to the program, the show is meant to be based on the relationship between the biblical figures David and Jonathan, who in the Book of Samuel become close friends after Jonathan is impressed by David’s defeat of Goliath. Their relationship is tested due to the clashes between David and Jonathan’s father, Saul, but Jonathan and David’s friendship is resilient. After Jonathan’s death, a covenant is formed, and David continues to care for Jonathan’s children. Within the show, I was confused about where the plot was supposed to really connect with this biblical story, and I felt like maybe I had missed something. The only similarity I was able to parse out was both stories were about great ‘friendships.’

However, the theme of names seemed to go beyond just their reference to biblical figures. Before entering the Glicker-Milstein Theatre to take my seat for the John & David premiere show, the other audience members and I were instructed to create a nametag to stick to our shirts. The other audience members, as well as myself, seemed equally perplexed but played along. This theme begins to reveal itself during John and David’s first interaction when John notices David is still wearing his name tag and inquires why; David explains and delivers the profound line that “names are the one thing about us that never really changes.” The theme continues to unfold when Kate talks to her friends about her relationship with David and quite randomly mentions that her name means pure. And later, it is revealed that David’s name, rather than meaning king, as one would expect due to the biblical story, really means friend. The theme resurfaces at the show’s end and comes full circle with Kate saying, “David doesn’t just want to be a nametag to people.” The other prevalent theme throughout the show is the recurring insecurities of the characters and the fear of not being “good enough.” David wonders why he is good enough to pose for John’s portrait; Kate wonders if she is good enough for David. In the final Act, Kate profoundly delivers the line, “Let good enough actually be enough.”

The show, coming across as a crossover between Call Me By Your Name and High School Musical, was by no means perfect; but perfection doesn’t seem to be the point. John & David is not about finding perfection; it is about being authentic. And the authenticity of John & David is reflected through its emotional and vulnerable songs and performances. John & David invites the audience to look within themselves and remember that good enough is enough.

Image via Roussel Acosta CC ’25