Wednesday, 6 November 2013

BOYS TO MEN: Earl Warner's Man Talk balances humour with a wised-up take on serious matters

RAISING THE BAR: Davis and Robert 'Bobby' Clarke among the vets in the cast.

Misconceptions, stereotypes, alpha-male machismo and, sadly, unbridled homophobia: the story of Caribbean masculinity is a complicated but endlessly interesting one. Enter playwright Earl Warner, whose seminal and testosterone-spiked Man Talk was in revival this past weekend at New Kingston's Theatre Place, a follow-up to last month's well-received excerpt at the Philip Sherlock Centre's Eight by Ten Festival.

In spite of its starkly minimalist set and a series of vignettes that don't always hit the mark, the Joan Belfon-helmed production still packs a powerful punch and is rife with vivid imagery and impassioned expression from a balanced cast of experience (including veteran actors Carl Davis and Bob Kerr) and such noteworthy up-and-comers as the very promising Desmond Dennis and Marlon Walker -- not to mention sporadically amusing sketches centred on pertinent themes running the gamut from fatherhood to the stigmatization of effeminacy in Jamaican culture. 

The language is frequently coarse, and the actors don't always manage to bring their characters into full-bodied existence. But on the upside, there is ample humour, a clever cricket motif and substantive messages on gender roles in contemporary society, as well as riffs on the varied experiences of men of all ages. 

Years from now, it is safe to conclude, Warner's timeless exploration concerning Jamaican and Caribbean ideas of masculinity will continue to challenge and provoke. Tyrone's Verdict: B

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