Wednesday, 21 March 2012

FAMILY TIES: Second Chance still packs an emotional punch

STICK BY ME: Longman, Murray and McHardy share a scene.

Second Chance (Funhouse Productions)
Director: David Tulloch
Cast: Makeda Solomon, Philip Clarke, Rosie Murray and Jolaine Longman
Venue: Fairfield Theatre, Montego Bay

Finding a second life in the second city, the revitalized family drama Second Chance still has bite – even if it lacks the gut-wrenching power of its predecessor. While the original 2010 staging at the Pantry in Kingston (featuring a cast led by Denise Hunt, Max Woodham and Dorothy Cunningham) felt far more piercing and immediately arresting, this go-round the show takes a while to reel in viewers.

But, as a whole, this new Second Chance (which reunites director David Tulloch and writer Angie Binns) is possessed of a winning mixture of lighthearted humour and jolting dramatic tension, in almost equal measure that, when combined with Binns’ superb storytelling and the appealing characters, makes for an entertaining, audience-friendly package. The lighting and set design (pieces of furniture, wall art, pastel hues) is modest and unfussy.

Makeda Solomon turns in a characteristically stellar lead performance as Nicky, a struggling single mother battling a crisis of faith and alcoholism, which threatens to destroy the already fragile relationship she shares with her teenaged daughter, Pepper (Jolaine Longman), a good-natured but strong-willed lass who misses her absent father. Philip Clarke appears as Will, Nicky’s caring church brother who lends a compassionate ear but may have ulterior motives. Rounding out the strong supporting cast are Rosie Murray (as the level-headed Aunty B) and Leakan McHardy as Pepper’s self-absorbed BFF, who does little to disprove the fact that she is a bad influence. Nasarah Kerr is in a few scenes as the fleet-footed housekeeper.

With such universally relatable themes as depression, temptation, family and struggle, Second Chance offers an accessible tale that serves to remind us that no one can truly go it alone. And Solomon’s performance, luminous and palpable, stands out for its authenticity. In channeling her character’s destructive demons and bad habits, the acclaimed actress takes a sort of understated approach to the role, playing it close to the vest but then cutting loose as the tension explodes in a frightfully verbal clash with her daughter that you sensed was bound to happen.

So while the show is not as gripping as its original, the cast and crew have managed to fashion an attention-worthy revival that dually provokes thought and renders an emotional jab or two. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

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