Wednesday, 18 January 2017

KEEPING SCORE: Razor-sharp and snarky, Four Can’t Play hits close to home

LIFE'S A BEACH: HoShing and Samuels laughing it up; (below) HoShing, Lowe and Titus.

Four Can’t Play (Basil Dawkins Productions) 
Director: Douglas Prout and Toni-Kay Dawkins 
Cast: Oliver Samuels, Ruth HoShing, Dennis Titus and Maylynne Lowe 
Venue: Little Little Theatre, Kingston 

YOU’D love to be a fly on the wall at the Jamaican-based north-coast hotel, where the action (heated drama, flat-out-funny humour) unfolds in Four Can’t Play, the well-written and splendidly acted new stage work from Basil Dawkins. 

Having already treated theatregoers to such memorable potboilers as What the Hell is Happening To Us, Dear?, For Better or Worse, Which Way Is Out? (and the list goes on), the veteran playwright makes a solid return to form, exploring relationship dynamics, flawed personalities, pride and dignity, with terrific results. Simply put, the play sizzles. 

In addition to his quartet of strong actors, Dawkins has an excellent repeat collaborator in Douglas Prout (co-directing again with Toni-Kay Dawkins), who elevates the script into a triumph boasting just the right the balance of entertainment, food for thought and life lessons. If nothing else, Four Can’t Play proves that the Dawkins/Prout dream team knows people and they know drama. 

We are introduced to two couples, who are staying at this well-appointed hotel that has a gorgeous poolside, where most of the action takes place. But they’re not here for a romantic getaway. Oh, no. Couples counselling has brought this foursome all the way out here. 

As it turns out, the older couple – Superintendent O'Mally, affectionately called ‘Heartthrob’ (Samuels), and his bride-to-be Gwendolyn (HoShing) are gearing up for that trip down the aisle. The younger pair – a former ‘mixologist’ named Barry (Titus) and his estranged private-dancer spouse Anne (Lowe) are getting a divorce after nine years. 
The couples are in adjoining rooms, so they end up sharing the pool and swapping stories. Heartthrob’s vociferous snoring is a potential deal-breaker for Gwen, who can be a tad overbearing, given her high standards. Anne’s frequent dalliances with the men she “performs” for rub Barry the wrong way. As we come to find out, he has an explosively violent temper. In other words, these are people you know or known by someone you know. Still, what starts out as a relatively peaceful, relaxing and purposeful weekend devolves into a hot mess, where even the police have to get involved. 

They say the course of true love never runs smooth, and Four Can’t Play drives this point home – and then some. It helps, too, that the actors (last seen together in 2014’s Divorce Papers) share a winning chemistry that keeps audience members riveted. Samuels and HoShing are at that certain age and certain stage of their careers, where the performances they offer feel effortless – a lip-smacking lesson in character study that isn’t lost on their younger counterparts. 

Razor-sharp and emotionally precise, Titus and Lowe burn a hole in the stage, bringing that raw passion and electric energy we associate with lovers constantly at loggerheads. Lowe, especially, delivers truly mesmerizing work, as the story nears its climax. 

Watching Four Can’t Play you might recall classics like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and even Tyler Perry’s more recent Why Did I Get Married? But you are never less than impressed by Dawkins’ uncanny ability to marry (pun intended) dramatic and comedic elements in his storytelling to sterling effect. In short, and with next to nothing to complain about, Four Can’t Play scores. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

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