THE WAY WE WERE: Rubie and Tulloch play ex-lovers who don't always see eye to eye.
White Skin, Black Heart (Probemaster Productions)
Director: David Tulloch
Cast: Neisha-Yen Jones, Kimberly Rubie, Gracie-Ann Watson and David Tulloch
Venue: The Blue Room (Phoenix Theatre), New Kingston
THE discerning theatergoer in the market for a well-spun, balanced and strongly acted play to take in this summer can hardly do any better than White Skin, Black Heart, the explosive new dramedy from writer-director David Tulloch. Tulloch scores again, leaving no stone unturned with this gut-punching exploration of relationship dynamics, mental health, trust and addiction, among other provocative issues.
You’ll laugh, clap, cringe and get downright cross as you take in the antics of these folks caught up in bitter domestic disputes, messy breakups and the never-ending struggle to get it right or let go and walk away. In spite of its claustrophobic setting (a quibble for almost every play staged in The Blue Room) and one-note lighting, White Skin strikes powerful and authentic notes as it delves into matter of the heart.
Neisha-Yen Jones gives a dynamite performance in the central role, playing Kerry, a good-natured woman who just lost her job in Kingston but has found love with a great man (Tulloch as smooth operator Nicholas), who has asked her to come share his MoBay apartment while she sorts things out. She gladly accepts.
But, as Kerry soon discovers, some things are just too good to be true. Not only does Nicholas have an 11-year-old daughter (Nastassia Prendergast as Jillian), he has to share custody with the world’s craziest ex-wife – a snooty fair-lady-in-pearls named Madison (played to the hilt by newcomer Kimberly Rubie) – who makes it clear that she’ll make life difficult for her ex-husband’s new flame. Baggage, baggage, baggage.
But Kerry is no Mother Teresa, given the secrets she’s been harbouring from a past that Nicholas seems to know very little about. Meanwhile, Gracie-Ann Watson brings ample comic relief to Tension Central as Kerry’s ghetto-fabulous sistren Stacey, who preaches a powerful fight-for-your-man message. Shaun Drysdale rounds out the cast as her boo, Marcus.
It’s a deeply felt and realistic show that brings the humour, soap opera drama and some erotic electricity and fireworks.
Tulloch deserves kudos not just for a splendid script and assured direction but for a performance that’s both convincing and nuanced. Jones’ Broadway/West End experience comes in handy as she transforms Kerry into an embattled woman who owns her flaws and shortcomings and is willing to fight for her happy ending. And who can’t relate to that? Tyrone’s Verdict: B+