TABLE OF CONTENT: Cast members during the dinner party scene.
Taboo (Backstory Productions)
Director: Eugene Williams Cast: Keiran King, Lisa Williams, Yendi Phillipps and Rodney Campbell
Venue: Philip Sherlock Centre, UWI Mona
Truth or dare. If you ask me, that's a way more fitting subtitle for Keiran King's provocative new work, Taboo ("the play you shouldn't see"), a spare, lacerating drama about marital dysfunction, the ties that bind, and forbidden passion.
King (Last Call, Mr. & Mrs. Blacke), who is fast emerging as a compelling voice of his generation, is content to continue his dalliance with broken lovers and relationship dynamics, but like his contemporaries sensing a paradigm shift towards darker and more sexualized themes, he has fashioned an intriguing and involving story that, at its very core, explores the kind of difficult and daring subject matter that easily rattles the cages of conservative society. You simply must see it for yourself.
At just 70 minutes, the play advances like a fast-paced novella, and so a few key things (like sufficient backstory, for instance, no pun intended) are glossed over. Still, Taboo offers an entertaining, enlightening, explosive episode that cuts deep.
We are introduced to two young Jamaican couples who, on the surface, seem vastly dissimilar. William (King) and Sabrina (Williams) are the bickering sort, ever at each other's throats, while John (Campbell) and Gina (Phillipps) give the impression of two successful professionals and doting parents blessed with the type of loving union and charming household that easily attracts envy. (Oh, you simply can't wait for the facade to crack. And you know it will.)
Meantime, Gina and William are close siblings, and they've all gathered at her house for their weekly dinner and to help William celebrate his 30th birthday. He clearly needs the merriment to put him in high spirits, given his funky, pessimistic outlook as a failed (ranting and raving) writer. William and Sabrina, a firecracker with the force of a tempest, are the more interesting couple, and their epic screaming matches (over their pent-up sexual frustrations and shabby marriage) lend the play much of its spark.
So what starts out as a fairly civilized and fun evening (featuring a sexy card game of Strip Me) before long devolves into a scandalous, headline-worthy saga that would land the cover of The Star.
King, who gives a solid performance (high on vim and volume), offers a quartet of carefully crafted characters that might be finely honed stereotypes, but they're fleshed out adequately by the superb cast under Eugene Williams' steady-handed direction.
Williams is simply magnificent as the take-no-mess sparkplug Sabrina, offering a full-bodied, often humorous turn -- the best of her young career. With her knee-high boots, arm-baring cleavage top and loose tongue, she is the life of the party.
Williams' work is a triumph matched in wit and subtlety by Campbell's performance that builds in stately crescendo to dynamite proportions. Phillipps, in her first stage outing, delivers a seriously commendable debut effort. Where she is limited in expression, she compensates with heartwarming charm and the nurturing grace of a gazelle.
So, Taboo -- with its vivid staging (lovely lighting, minimalist set, eye-popping yellow and red hues) -- isn't a masterpiece, and that's not entirely a bad thing. It's aim, after all, is to spark dialogue (and ruffle a few feathers) on matters of morality and intimate relations, however polarizing -- where foreplay (four play?) is the climax and a kiss is never just a kiss. Tyrone's Verdict: B+