Wednesday, 27 May 2015

FIGHTING TEMPTATION: Strongly acted Night Work blows hot and cold

BEDROOM CONFIDENTIAL: King (as Paul) and Maye (as Jenny) play two vastly dissimilar people who rock each other's worlds.

Hard to believe, but by his own admission, Paul Coxsman (Hugh King) is 54 years old, and he's never seen a woman in the nude. And he's been married for years to Mary (Gracie-Ann Watson), a prudish schoolteacher who wears long skirts to bed and gives him grief over his erectile dysfunction while lamenting the absence of fireworks in their marriage bed. (She seeks out one Dicky Benwood for counselling!)

So you're not the least bit surprised that when Coxsman, a university lecturer and esteemed sociologist, encounters an illiterate prostitute - the sparkplug Jenny (Zandriann Maye) - along Knutsford Boulevard one night, he doesn't have a clue as to how to handle her. Faster than you can say French letter, she whisks him off to her place and rocks him to the core with a no-holds-barred introduction to a world of sexual fantasy and cheeky repartee, with Coxsman hanging on for dear life. But, as we soon discover, he has a few lessons of his own to teach her, Pygmalion style, as they get to know each other intimately with life-altering consequences.

You'll find plenty to laugh and think about while watching Night Work, a remount of the "classic Jamaican comedy" penned by Hugh King himself back in the day, now dusted off and reworked for today's generation by director Pablo Hoilett. Though it's not the scorching slam-dunk that some might be anticipating, the play (closing May 31 at the Theatre Place) makes a strong point about class and morality and generates plenty of heat thanks a sizzling cast led by the red-hot Maye, who burns a hole in the stage.

Given its daring subject matter, Night Work is a story that begs to be thrust under the microscope: a well-learned older man takes under his wing a hooker several decades his junior and proceeds to give her an education in the tradition of Mr. Higgins, that opens her up to a world where the prize is what's between her ears and not her legs. Jenny, convincingly portrayed with grit and slinky naivete by Maye, takes to her newfound passion like a fish to water, and witnessing her transformation is one of the play's most delightful highlights.

Even so, Jenny's academic awakening can't detract from the play's more brazen and sobering themes of adultery, sexuality and class relations  a mix that the veteran Hoilett is all too familiar with and handles with sufficient tact and restraint. Suitable for mature audiences only, given its adult content, Night Work has its flaws (the pacing could be tighter) but overall it's a fun little romp about late bloomers, the world of promiscuous sex and transforming a sow's ear into a silk purse. Tyrone's Verdict: B

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