Are you the father?

Topical issue explored in comedy Straight Jacket

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, August 22, 2019

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Playwright and director Patrick Brown continues to get it right.

With a string of hit plays under his belt, Brown and the team at Jambiz International seem to have worked out the formula for writing and producing work that resonate with local audiences. It is, therefore, no wonder that they have become the only production company that has something on stage at least five nights a week.

Their second production for this year, Straight Jacket, is currently on at the Centrestage Theatre in New Kingston, and in true Brown fashion he has taken what is a topical issue and has blended it with comedic elements and what you have is two hours of solid entertainment.

The topical issue in this case is what is commonly referred to as “jacket”, wherein men are assigned paternity to children who are not biologically theirs by the mothers. Brown draws inspiration for this comedy from statistics out of the Family Court, which showed that 34.5 per cent of Jamaican men tested during court proceedings were not the father.

Armed with this data, Brown has crafted a witty clever and ultimately thought-provoking work centred around married couple Ellie, played by Nadean Rawlins, and her husband Greg, brought to life by the inimitable Glen “Titus” Campbell.

All is well with the couple. He is a government minister and she considers herself a fashion designer. They have an 8-year-old son who is the light of their lives and is currently spending the summer holidays in the country with his grandparents. With the nest empty, Greg and Ellie use the time to get to know each other even more... life is good. That's until Jerry (Courtney Wilson) turn things on end by suggesting that he could be the father of Ellie's son.

This could be a standard drama, but given the love Jamaicans have for laughter Brown's formula dictates that the comedic element must be introduced.

The comedy in Straight Jacket is carried for the most part by Shonda. This character, brilliantly played by Sakina Deer, is a grieving widow who for the most part should be institutionalised and put in a straight jacket, but her pearls of wisdom and understanding, give credence to why she 'still deh a street'. Deer uses her gift of timing to drop great one liners and her mania is balanced by Rawlins' strong dramatic presence, so it never seems contrived.

There might be some who downplay Campbell's role in this work as he relies less on his physical comedic skills. So there are few glares from his eyes and he doesn't have to flash the grin in order to get a laugh. What he does will is hold his cast together in a really great way.

Wilson is the one who used the physical acting to his advantage in this work.

Expect to continue the conversation regarding long after the actors have taken a bow and you have left the theatre. Straight Jacket is worth the watch.


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