by Tyrone Reid
“There’s a storm coming,” Samantha Blacke warns her just-home-from-work husband Nicholas in the opening scene of Mr & Mrs Blacke, a potent but flawed two-hander marital drama from writer-producer Keiran King. But Samantha’s words are as much an admonition for her husband as they are for the audience, which is in for a deeply emotional trip across the unpredictable terrain of love and matrimony, as we eavesdrop on this young, well-to-do couple over the course of an evening inside the luxurious living room of their luxurious upper St. Andrew home.
It’s a visually charming production to be sure; the set is lovely to look at and the overall setting is beautifully lit. But if Desperate Housewives has taught me anything it’s that the appearance of wholesome attractiveness is never to be trusted. As it happens, beneath the gorgeous façade lurks ugly and deep-seated emotions (rage, despair, disillusionment) that are just dying to come out. In other words, all is not black and white.
Meticulous and mistrusting, Samantha (Patterson) is a Shakespeare-spouting aspiring writer with, um, issues. The hubby (King), on the other hand, is a successful investment banker who comes off as a burdened fellow given to regular bouts of cynicism. They hardly seem the perfect match. But given their good fortune, you can’t help but wonder what the hell are they so miserable about? Well, as that wise man famously said, you never know the value of what you’ve got till you lose it.
That’s a fact the Blackes must come to terms with the hard way. What starts out as a quiet, relaxing evening soon deteriorates into a tempest of screaming and shouting and things better left unsaid. “You’re driving me crazy,” bites Nicholas at one point. “The feeling is mutual,” Samantha snaps back without missing a beat.
In just a few short years, King has become known for favouring dialogue-heavy scripts, and Blacke is no exception with some truly witty lines and wise observations. But the play does sag around the middle, growing into a tedious longeur until the pace finally quickens and the temperature in the room takes a heated turn.
As for the performances, King and Patterson are no great thespians, but they are adequately competent actors, and with Issa extending a steady hand over the proceedings, the turns are regularly nuanced and revealing.
“Nobody wants to watch people fall out of love,” remarks one of the characters. And, truly, there is perhaps no line that better speaks to Mr & Mrs Blacke. Though a solid work with its bright moments, as a study of complicated lovers and trust and misunderstanding it sometimes shows its stitching and occasionally loses its way.
Mr & Mrs Blacke (EightSevenSix Productions)
Director: Paul Issa Cast:
Keisha Patterson and Keiran King
Venue: Philip Sherlock Centre, UWI Mona