Sunday, 10 February 2013

THEN AND NOW: Skeen and Murray ‘play’ fast and fiery in latest revival of Rhone’s classic

BUILDING CHARACTER: The stars portray a long-married couple at a crossroads.

Two Can Play (Goddess Theatre) 
Director: Carolyn Allen 
Cast: Paul Skeen and Rosie Murray 
Venue: Pantry Playhouse, New Kingston 

Among the great trifecta of Trevor Rhone masterpieces – also including Old Story Time and Smile Orange Two Can Play might just be the most hilarious and brilliantly written among them, though it comes down to quite a duel with Smile Orange. Laced with side-splitting humour and keen observations about family and urban Jamaican life, it woos and wins over audiences with a mix of crisp, clever dialogue and a pair of well-drawn characters. 

As it happens, Goddess Theatre (a new production house set up Terri Salmon) has mounted a wonderful revival, starring Rosie Murray and Paul Skeen (as the inimitable Gloria and Jim), under the rather sharp-eyed direction of Carolyn Allen, known primarily for her work with the Jamaica Junior Theatre. 

In its bid to do justice to the Rhone classic, it’s a terrifically funny and well-acted effort, though the garish staging (a claustrophobic set and sometimes sub-par lighting) is something to quibble about. Still, the play delivers successive moments of lingering resonance with its fast-paced, relatable look at everything from marriage and migration to economic hardships and socio-political strife in ’70s Jamaica – and the toll such conditions took on the lives of ordinary people. 

Married for some 20 years, Jim and Gloria have become disillusioned with the tough status quo and are determined to leave Jamaica for the United States to be reunited with their now-grown kids. Trouble is, they lack the requisite documents. As we watch them plot and scheme and leap over hurdles, what actually plays out is a detailed examination of the relationship (frequent bickering, sporadic acts of intimacy) between the hypermasculine Jim and the no-nonsense Gloria, a seriously practical woman if ever there was one. 

As penned by Rhone, Two Can Play is a dialogue-driven beast and a probing two-hander character study, and fortunately these actors prove up to the task, bringing considerable weight to the parts and offering performances (the best thing about the show) that draw viewers ever deeper into the story – a tale that genuinely seems to matter today as much as it did back in the day when the late great Rhone first conceived it. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

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