Monday, 7 March 2016

WANTS & NEEDS: Lively-funny He Said, She Said serves up spicy action, provocative ideas

HOW DO YOU WANT IT?: Cast members work the stage in this scene from the show at the Courtleigh Auditorium.

The original working title for the new theatrical revue He Said, She Said (Ellis International) was Too Much Sex. And before long, you clearly see why. It’s all about grown-folks business, laced with themes and scenarios that span the gamut from relationship dynamics, satisfaction and infidelity to prostitution, masturbation and homophobia. The world of sex is a vast one, so writer-director Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis and his actors have a lot to explore. Unfortunately, that makes the production about ten minutes too long.

Still, the show comes packed with megasized humour and highly commendable acting performances (Karen Harriott, stand up!). At the same time, Ellis is such a clever and observant writer that the material is never less than insightful and relatable. Sometimes side-splittingly funny.

Where to begin? For starters, He Said, She Said is a series of skits, each dealing with a particular aspect of sex life. And the highlights are plenty, taking you from the strip club to the bedroom to the guidance counsellor’s office and back again. We encounter lonely housewives, horny teenage boys and dissatisfied spouses eager to find the next best thing – marital vows be damned. And it’s precisely this realistic, straight-no-chaser approach that lends the show its oomph.

In one skit for instance, Tesfa Edwards appears as a Rastafarian shopkeeper schooling an impatient young man (Jakeme-Jamar Clarke) on the proper way to please a woman, citing a mix of stamina, hard-earned knowledge and patience as fail-proof tools. But we later see how that turns out. At a golden age home, two elderly women (Harriott and Lakeisha Ellison) lament their ruined sex lives, while two of their male counterparts (Clarke and Matthew Boyd) brag about scoring some action in spite of their geriatric status.

In one of the most telling scenes, Harriott appears as a lover of insatiable appetites, but her poor man (Edwards) can’t keep up. Fireworks ensue. As they say, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Then there’s the two-sides-to-every-story bit – the woman (Ellison) dishing to her girlfriends about the man’s dismal performance, while the man (Edwards) brags to his boys about rocking her world that night. As expected, the audience can’t get enough, some perhaps seeing their own personal experiences reflected in the action on stage.

The show’s best monologue, however, is delivered by Harriott, who regales us with the joys of her regular ‘one-woman show’. “With curves like these,” she asks us, “who needs a man anyway?”

The cast is a nice blend of experienced performers and fresh faces. Kudos to Boyd, Clarke and Gemmar McFarlane, newcomers still honing their talents. For the most part, they hold their own alongside the veterans Harriott and Edwards. Ellison, who has appeared in a number of ‘roots plays’ over the years, proves she has much more to offer.

With its minimalist staging, vivid lighting and a bit of musical theatre thrown into the mix, He Said, She Said (despite its minor shortcomings) will have all your senses engaged. Laced with humour, wit and frank dialogue, it’s entertaining, lively and reasonably satisfying. Tyrone’s Verdict:

 > Artist Spotlight: An interview with actor Tesfa Edwards

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