by Omar Tomlinson
NICHOLAS and Samantha Blacke seem a picture-perfect couple: attractive, intelligent, and live in a townhouse in a gated complex. The Blackes are the epitome of upward mobility. But beneath the polished exterior, the pair is anything but happily married. Miserably existing is an apt summation to their now hapless union.
It’s the somewhat engaging premise of Mr and Mrs Blacke, actor and playwright Keiran King’s theatrical production, now playing at Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, University of the West Indies, Mona campus.
King casts himself as the sardonic Nicholas Blacke, in the Paul Issa-directed play, while songbird and actress Keisha Patterson easily slips into the role of his creatively frustrated and emotionally weary spouse.
The two are competent thespians, and riff well off each other in the two-hander play’s quest to examine the whens, whys, and hows of a derailing marriage. The lanky King, exceedingly better as a writer than an actor, has a gift with crafting witty dialogue, and incisive conversation. While King efficiently handles his play’s zingy one-liners with a relaxed relish, he’s unable to convey the dramatic heft when the role demands it. Case in point: a confrontational scene between the spouses sees King screeching more than emoting, and try as he does to find an emotional centre for Nicholas, his character comes across as more whiny than whipsmart.
For her part, Patterson breathes some needed moxie into the not-so-likable Samantha, giving it her all. But the self-absorption of her character is limiting and allows her little leeway to dig deeper.
Through both King’s script and Issa’s subtle directorial nuances, Mr and Mrs Blacke works best when it shows the inner thoughts and workings of the upper middle class life. There, it excels.
The set — the Blacke’s townhouse, a stark minimalist white — also deserves kudos, as it effectively plays as a visual contrast to both the Blacke name and the black hole into which the once-happy union has sunk.
See the play for a fresh, intelligent take on marital strife. Just don’t expect to love it all. But perhaps that was King’s intention.