AS I AM: Ramsey (far right) works the scene, opposite Reid and Bellanfantie, also pictured below with Williams.
A sporadically laugh-out-loud new comedy about life in a typical urban Jamaican neighbourhood, The Prophet is peppered with social commentary, populated by crazy-colourful characters and anchored by a characteristically side-splittingly boisterous lead performance by crowd favourite Keith 'Shebada' Ramsey.
One can never tell what is going on in the ever-wandering mind of writer-producer David Tulloch, who has a knack for taking the topical issues of the day and infusing them with his own raw and restless energy and near-scandalous viewpoints to create something both entertaining and thought-provoking. The wheels are constantly in motion. So while The Prophet doesn't venture close to his finest hour, it certainly brings the big, extended laughs and the kind of light-hearted banter that works for its target audience.
An actress who is clearly coming into her own with each performance, Dainty Bellanfantie is Mercedes, a struggling single mom (and lady of the night) whose truant teenaged daughter contributes immensely to the stress. It doesn't help either that the man believed to be her biological father (Marlon Brown) is a local thug who chiefly makes his living via the lottery scam and wants nothing to do with them.
Junior Williams, meanwhile, is the corner-shop businessman Shoppy, whose spot provides the setting for most of the play's action. Garfield Reid dons a gut, a beard, and a fedora to play Pops, a grumpy old-timer with a cane and a taste for young girls.
Surveying it all from the safety of the garbage dumpster, while "communing" with God, is Prophet, the community warner-man garbed in royal Rastafarian colours and widely believed to be bonkers. But he can explain. "I nuh mad," he assures everyone. "I just want something to eat."
These are "people" you know or have come across at some point or another, but in Tulloch's hands they are so complex and multi-layered that they border on caricature. Still, as a whole, the actors exude a winning chemistry that makes the play's shortcomings tolerable.
Though The Prophet commendably delves into ideas of family dynamics, community spirit, and the mother-daughter arc, its sturdiest asset is by far Ramsey, who delivers one of his rowdiest comedic turns in recent years — a portrait of cunning and crazy so spot-on and hilarious it proves that when it comes to stepping into another life for the sake of live comedy he can play most anything. He hardly has an equal. Tyrone's Verdict: B