UNEASY STREET: Titus and Barrett play antagonistic former flames.
Stanley, Fay, Pularchie & P (Jamaica 50)
Director: Pablo Hoilett
Cast: Dennis Titus, Marguerite Newland, Sherando Ferril and Suzette Barrett
Venue: Theatre Place, New Kingston
This season, Jamaican theatre pays glowing homage to two legends of the arts who are no longer with us: the director Norman Rae and playwright Gloria Lannaman, whose collaboration way, way back in the day (the seventies, to be exact), resulted in one of the finest stage plays in our cultural history – Stanley, Fay, Pularchie & P, which is currently in revival at the Theatre Place as a Jamaica 50-endorsed event.
And it’s a revival worthy of its creative pedigree. Set in Kingston against the backdrop of the 1930s labour unrests, Pularchie is a ferociously funny, well-written and well-acted comedy-drama that offers a glimpse at life in pre-Independence Jamaica, driven by compelling characters, a strong dose of humour and a director who knows how to bring the material to life with the quality and respect it deserves.
True, a few scenes are a tad too long, but Lannaman’s nuanced storytelling and sharp, wise observations about humanity and struggle are simply arresting. There’s one particularly memorable scene in the second act where Pearlie (Barrett) and Stanley (Titus) are engaged in a scorching verbal back-and-forth over their one-time romance and its repercussions. It is absolutely riveting stuff, revealing not only Lannaman’s gift for bitingly intense dialogue but the power and sheer brilliance of the two actors. Titus and Barrett give terrific, revelatory performances in the show.
Titus’ Stanley is a hotheaded, down-on-his-luck but diligent labourer (and passionate lover) who ekes out a living at the Kingston waterfront along with colleagues Nathan (Maurice Bryan) and Silas (Carl Davis). He has a supportive, strong-willed wife, Fay (a wonderful Ferril) but his venomous and vengeful ex Pearlie is a thorn in their side. At the heart of the play is a chronicle of the trials and crosses the couple must deal with when fate serves them a raw deal. Not to mention a series of unfortunate events involving murder and blackmail in the run-up to the play’s devastating conclusion.
Rounding out the strong auxiliary cast: Newland (the nurturing Miss Pularchie), Donald Anderson (heavy-drinking countryman Joey) and Marsha-Ann Hay (flirty Doris, who catches Joey’s eye once he lands in Kingston).
For me, among the play’s many simple pleasures are references to the Jamaica of yore like tram, busha, pence, salting and the tenement yard. Larry Watson’s set and Quindell Ferguson’s costumes are sterling, making their own solid contributions to the show’s piercing look at hope and family caught in a desperate battle against hardship and poverty. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-