Saturday, 18 March 2017

ALL IN THE FAMILY: Beadle’s 70X7 paints a realistic but uneven portrait

STAND BY YOUR MAN: Johnson (left) and Beadle sharing a scene from the production.

70X7: The Real Truth (SoulArt by Suzanne Productions)
Director: Michael Daley
Cast: Suzanne Beadle, Kaleb D’Aguilar, Renae Williams and Stephen-Rhae Johnson
Venue: Phoenix Theatre, New Kingston

HOW does a family come to terms with a ruthless betrayal by the last person they expected to stab them in the back? The Morgans, a God-fearing, middle-class St. Andrew family, headed by matriarch Grace (Suzanne Beadle) and her workaholic husband James (Stephen-Rhae Johnson), understandably find it difficult to forgive and move on with their lives when the unthinkable happens.

That’s the basic gist of the plot that anchors 70X7: The Real Truth, a starkly realistic and well-acted faith-based dramedy that is weighed down by an uneven and overlong script but drives home a powerful and essential message that revolves around trust, the ties that bind and healing.

Grace (the calm but increasingly frustrated stay-at-home wife) and James (the fleet-footed hubby seemingly devoted to his pastor) have their hands full with a business start-up and actively supporting their church. Consequently, this obviously committed couple runs the risk of neglecting the flame of their marriage. What’s also clear is that though they don’t always see eye to eye, they love their two college-age kids who still have rooms at the house: music lover Justin (Kaleb D’Aguilar) and foxy UWI girl Jada (Renae Williams), whose flirtatious streak may have led to the harassing phone calls she’s been receiving lately.

Acting on a request from Pastor Sinclair (Clayton McEwan), James and Grace take in Shawn (Brian Maloney), an ‘unassuming’ chap with a knack for numbers who is finishing up his studies at UWI. That’s when things take a complicated turn in the Morgan household. Before long, there’s an emotional storm brewing. It soon crescendos into a maelstrom where tempers flare, certain things are said and clutch-those-pearls secrets come tumbling out of the closet with life-altering consequences. 

Beadle, making her commercial theatre debut with this domestic potboiler, shows immense talent as a playwright, offering a story that commendably blends the comic and the dramatic, the lighthearted and the serious. Trouble is, the length of the piece feels excessive and the narrative shies away from the conclusion we were anticipating. As a result, we don’t get the emotional payoff we felt was coming.

But, as a whole, 70X7 works, perhaps chiefly due to Daley’s directing, which elicits convincing work from his actors, especially Beadle (consistent and emotionally precise) and Johnson (now an Actor Boy nominee for Moses), who taps into James’ desperate frustrations to be breadwinner, husband, superdad and reliable church brother, even as his family slips into crisis. 

Meanwhile, relative newcomers Williams, D’Aguilar, Maloney and McEwan turn in commendable work, holding their own and displaying a level of mastery of the material. And kudos are due to the creative/technical team for the reflective, Christian-themed soundtrack and a gorgeous lighting and set design that brings the Morgans’ home interior to vivid life. 

Though it could do with a bit of tightening, 70X7: The Real Truth is a worthwhile theatrical experience that examines familial bonds and human relationships – and what happens when faith and forgiveness are put to the test. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

>> INTERVIEW: Actor Stephen-Rhae Johnson gets candid

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