DREAM STATE: Apple (Jackson, right), enjoys her reverie as BFF Poochie (Woollery) looks on; the teacher plots his move.
Bad Apple (Barracks Entertainment Productions)
Director: Fabian Barracks
Cast: Shantol Jackson, Nicholas Amore, Jodian Findley, and Shauneca Woollery
Venue: Theatre Place, New Kingston
With Bad Apple, fast-rising playwright-producer Fabian Barracks immerses us in a world populated by angst-ridden schoolgirls, their sometimes unattentive guardians and the sexual predators always lurking in the shadows. The play's central idea of young girls being robbed of their innocence by powerful men who are supposed to be protecting them is not exactly a novel concept, but here it's given a honest, unflinching interpretation that hits very close to home. Compelling, twisty and very well-acted, Bad Apple might be primarily aimed at the teen crowd but its sobering message and adult situations speak to people across the board.
We are introduced to shy, sweet, Shakespeare-quoting Appleonia Smith (Shantol Jackson), a fifteen-year-old whose fantasy is to be swept off her feet by a knight in shining armour. "Someday My Prince Will Come" could be her theme song. In stark contrast to her "bookophobic" spitfire of a best friend Poochie (Shauneca Woollery), Apple is focused on excelling academically in the hope of rescuing her struggling, no-nonsense Auntie Vinette (Jodian Findley) from a life of domestic servitude. Things are going swimmingly well for the pretty young miss (bright and ambitious if a bit naive) until love gets in the way.
Blinded by his slippery charms and the thought of her Romeo & Juliet moment finally coming to life, Apple becomes romantically entangled with her literature teacher Brian Gayle (Nicholas Amore), a smooth-talking married man who worms his way into her heart and her bed. But what was supposed to sweep her off her feet ends up smacking Apple upside the head and flipping her world upside down — complete with emotional blackmail, humiliation and death threats.
We feel for Apple and not just because the narrative arc of her story is so recognizable and steeped in reality. As portrayed by Jackson (a talented rising star possessed of a very natural style), she becomes a haunting symbol of shattered dreams. Even so, the resolution of her ordeal never lets us forget that the darkest hour is just before the light.
With his fine cast of up-and-comers (all four actors are appealing), Barracks serves up a hugely entertaining tale that examines ripped-from-the-headlines stereotypes without wallowing in them and delivers a jolting climax that plays like a piece of suspense thriller. Edge-of-your-seat stuff. Tyrone's Verdict: B+
> Barracks' gritty drama Gaza Boyz packs a punch