Tuesday, 15 January 2013

THE POWER & THE GLORY: Though solidly acted, Dangerous Ambitions yields mixed fortunes

HEAR ME OUT: Lowe and Baugh are all ears to Howard's plan. Below, Johnson and McFarlane share a tense scene.

Dangerous Ambitions (Basil Dawkins Productions) 
Director: Douglas Prout 
Cast: Maylynne Lowe, Rory Baugh, George Howard, Chris McFarlane, and Volier Johnson 
Venue: Little Little Theatre, Kingston 

For his latest theatrical offering, Dangerous Ambitions, writer Basil Dawkins takes on, among other pertinent issues, the twin themes of power and politics, exploring the dealings of shady people coming to terms with their own slipperiness and craftiness. Though it’s mostly a keenly observed effort with occasionally clever dialogue, it doesn’t rank highly among Dawkins’ most accessible plays, such as the award-winning For Better or Worse and the 2011 hit Where Is My Father? 

As it happens, the show is weighed down by a leaden pace and an action sequencing that takes way too long to reward viewer interest. Consequently, it’s an uneven production, the flaws overshadowing the strengths. But, speaking of the play’s strong points, make no mistake: the actors turn in solid work nonetheless, particularly Maylynne Lowe and Christopher McFarlane, whose terrific performances crescendo neatly as the show heads to its realistic but underwhelming conclusion. 

Lowe stars as Alexia, an attractive, hardworking businesswoman whose common-law marriage with the jealous/arrogant loose-canon Vinton (Rory Baugh) is fast losing its flavour. The cracks in their union only get worse when a scheming, charming “community don” who goes by Elder (a convincing George Howard) enters the picture and starts grooming Vinton for political office, with an eye on the constituency seat. But does Elder, meantime, have his other eye on another “coveted prize”? Throw into the mix Elder’s sidekick, Coach (McFarlane), a devoted sports coach from the community, and Sarge (Volier Johnson), a greedy senior cop with a hefty appetite for bribes. 

As helmed by Dougie Prout, whose directorial choices don’t always hit the spot, what plays out is an interesting piece of comedy-drama featuring sly characters and the crafty power games they play. But who is really getting played? Because, as the audience soon discovers, things are not all what they seem. 

In its attempt to explore and expose deep societal fractures, especially those concerning leadership, corruption, and higher office, Dangerous Ambitions manages to sidestep the stereotypes, but doesn’t offer enough in terms of possible, bigger-picture solutions. 

Problems aside, the show is executed with commendable craftsmanship, speedy set changes, and apt lighting, in spite of the limited stage space that the Little Little Theatre is notorious for. Meantime, Johnson (effortlessly humorous), Baugh (guilty of a bit of overacting here and there) and McFarlane (engaging stage presence) give satisfactory accounts in their sizeable roles, but Lowe and Howard share a winning chemistry that makes their scenes together truly poignant. 

Overall, Dangerous Ambitions might be kooky-quirky, yielding mixed results, but its overarching message is simple: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Tyrone’s Verdict: B 

George Howard talks politics, fitness, and passion for theatre

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