by Marcia Rowe
Playwrights have always been inspired by the works of others and by elements outside of art.
The sources for a number of ancient Greek plays, for instance, came from religion.
That being said, there should be no surprise when a Jamaican playwright is inspired by the style of another period. To be able to appreciate the play, it is important that you understand the period of the inspiration.
Simply put, many centuries ago the neo-classicists established mandates for playwrights. These ideals governed European theatre for 200 years. The most famous was their insistence on the observance of time, place and action. Unity of time required that the dramatic action in the play should not exceed 24 hours; unity of place restricted the action to one locale, and unity of action involved one central story (no subplots) around a small group of characters. And all characters must behave in ways based on their age, profession, sex etc. Additionally, the drama must be ‘true to life’.
On Sunday, The Gleaner viewed the play Last Call written, directed and produced by Keiran King. The story spans approximately 24 hours. There is one central plot, and it unfolds in the dining area of the historic Myrtle Bank Hotel, built in 1870. There are five characters – Clarence, the bartender and former cabaret singer at the hotel, and four high-school friends, Cecil Dixon, a banker; Joseph, who works at a phone company; Rose, a flight attendant with BOAC; and Daphne, the present cabaret singer at the hotel.
Ten years ago, the four high-school students planned to reunite at the hotel. While it is evident that Rose (Rishille Bellamy) remembered the group’s rendezvous, it is clear that Joseph (Shayne Powell) and Daphne (Sakina Deer) did not remember. On the other hand, it is not clear if Cecil (Maurice Bryan) remembered.
As the play progresses it is revealed that the characters, including Clarence (Andrew Lawrence) have major love issues. Through the use of well-written dialogue and perfectly selected songs from blues singers Ella Fitzgerald and Cole Porter, their stories are exposed. And, like plays of its ilk, there is a happy ending.
King is to be applauded for a fantastic script with some well-thought out speeches, as well as a well-decorated set, done along with Patrick Williams, which captured the period and style. He, along with Scarlett Beharie, also combined to create costumes that were well done.
Except for Lawrence’s role, King earned high marks for casting. The four young people were well cast. Generally, each gave a creditable performance. However the best performances came from Lawrence and Deer. They were the better singers and seemed to be more connected to their characters.
Lawrence, in spite of his youthful appearance for the older Clarence, managed to get the required empathy from the audience. Deer as the feisty Daphne was a notch above the rest. Powell, on the other hand, sang well but was not very convincing as the love-struck Joseph.
Bellamy and Bryan sang well.
The production is completed with a band of five musicians, who gave good support.
Nicely costumed and well placed at stage left of the wide Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts on the University of the West Indies Mona campus, they were professional in their performance.