Saturday, 10 December 2016

TOUGH LOVE: 'Tek Yuh Han' touches a nerve, delivers strong performances

FOUR PLAY: Bailey, Murray, Menou and Wilson explore the ties that bind in the gripping play.

Tek Yuh Han' Off Ah Me (Whirlwind Entertainment)
Director: Michael Nicholson 
Cast: Rosie Murray, Shana Wilson, Brittaney Bailey and Jean-Paul Menou 
Venue: Jamaica Shopping Club Theatre, Kingston 

DOMESTIC violence, extra-marital relations and the ties that bind make for an explosive mix in the new stage drama Tek Yuh Han' Off Ah Me, a strongly acted but ultimately uneven production that opened in Kingston on the weekend.

Directed by Michael Nicholson, working with a script by Michael Dawson, the show raises important and sobering questions about the nature of and reasons for relationship abuse and why victims refuse to leave their abusers - even when they are clearly on the fast-track to Death's door. The show is riddled with intensity, ample humour and conviction from its quartet of players. But, in the end, it is a tad too long. A bit of editing and tweaking would improve the overall flow.

We are introduced to Karen Anderson (Shana Wilson, superb), a driven and focussed college girl with her own apartment and big dreams, determined to get her securities license. Trouble is, she's the administrative assistant and on-the-side girlfriend of one Vincent Marzouca (Jean-Paul Menou), a married businessman who not only wants to whisk her off to Canada but readily takes out his frustrations on her. The abuse becomes excessive. 

To further complicate things, Karen's busybody momzilla Audrey Smith (Rosie Murray) is a mass of contradictions, assuming the role of protector while encouraging her daughter to remain in the abusive relationship for the monetary gain. Is mommy secretly playing an angle?

Rounding out the solid cast is relative newcomer Brittaney Bailey as Karen's devoted school friend Toni Wilkins, who dresses like a thuggish lesbian but claims she is a straight, formerly married young woman just looking out for her friend's best interest and overall well-being. They are all in for a jolting reality check when the goings-on spiral dangerously out of control, leading up to the play's shattering final scene.

While Murray and Menou bring their years of experience to their sizeable roles, Bailey, an Ashe alumna who nabbed scenes in last season's Dead Leff, shows great promise as a character actress. Commanding our attention with just the right blend of stage presence and steely resolve, Wilson's impressive as Karen reveals someone who both captivates and confounds.

Though Dawson's script could do with some trimming, the play (which features Queen Ifrica's hard-hitting rendition of the theme song of the same name) entertains, provokes thought and puts forward potent arguments about human relationships, family dynamics and societal rules. 

For the most part, Nicholson and his actors satisfactorily flesh out these characters, which could have come off as wishy-washy stereotypes. But we meet them as relatable, realistic souls caught up in a powerful cautionary tale. Tyrone's Verdict: B

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