Tuesday, 30 January 2018

A BETTER LIFE: ‘Right Girl’ zooms in on ghetto pressures, deception and ambition

STICK BY ME: Elise and Mignott get up-close in this scene from the must-see play.

Right Girl, Wrong Address (Jambiz Productions)
Director: Trevor Nairne and Patrick Brown
Cast: Sharee Elise, Akeem Mignott, Courtney Wilson, Kenesha Bowes and Glen Campbell
Venue: Centrestage Theatre, New Kingston

SOMETIMES one is tempted to agree with the songwriter that to be poor is a crime. To countless inner-city residents that’s the conclusion you readily draw. Who feels it knows it. A young lady who’s lived in the ghetto all her life is convinced that she’s destined for a better life, to finally escape the squalor and suffocation. To leave the ghetto behind, she needs a well-paying job, but she’s repeatedly turned down at interviews because of where she lives. Cue the Etana soundtrack.

Desperate and at the end of her rope after a long and fruitless search, Charmaine Ned (Sharee Elise) has come to Pine Productions – a music production company run by brothers Adam (Akeem Mignott) and Ricky (Glen Campbell) – to apply for the post of Adam’s personal assistant. This is the opportunity she’s been waiting for. She decides to give her employers a false uptown address. What would you do if you were in her position?

That’s one of the poignant questions playwright Patrick Brown poses to viewers of his latest theatrical offering, Right Girl Wrong Address (now playing at Centrestage in New Kingston). Hugely enjoyable and utterly thought-provoking, the play succeeds in painting a compelling, vivid portrait of the trying circumstances, the enormous obstacles, people from certain quarters face in their attempts to rise above – escape – their harsh socio-economic realities.

It’s also a play about choices and consequences, and Charmaine Ned has some tough lessons to learn. But you empathize with her. You don’t agree with all her decisions, but you understand where she’s coming from and admire her ambition and her determination. It’s a well-drawn character brought to full-bodied life by Elise, who proves she can muster up real emotional depth and nuance in portraying a down-on-her-luck young woman who decides to take a big risk to get ahead.

But when unexpected office romance blooms, will Charmaine’s ‘deception’ be exposed?

All of the actors turn in strong performances, but I was particularly impressed by relative newcomer Kenesha Bowes, who is superb as office-cleaning lady Nicey (a young woman with “three babyfadda and two o’ dem wukliss”), who has cultivated a tough exterior in response to life’s hard knocks. By contrast, Courtney Wilson’s Ras Iley, a wannabe I-Octane, didn’t get the memo that real talent is a primary pre-requisite for breaking into the music biz.

Strong, commanding and charming when required, Mignott and Campbell bring a genuine fraternal chemistry to the roles of Adam and Ricky, brothers and business partners who have each other’s back through thick and thin, love and war. 

The set design (chiefly depicting the Pine Productions offices) benefitted from a classy touch and minute details, but patrons who wanted to see the ghetto-fabulous “Patty Pan” that Charmaine calls home were left disappointed. 

Yet another fine example of Brown’s masterful storytelling (blending humour and drama, wit and comedic punch), Right Girl Wrong Address is one of the best productions you’ll see in town this season. Tackling poverty, pride and prejudice and one young woman’s risky push for prosperity, the play both entertains and enlightens. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

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