Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ha Ha Ha Hits Home

This is not a review, very much in the way that Act Like a Lady, Think like a Ho is not a play. I remember not so long ago complaining about local theatre which then seemed only capable of producing adaptions of existing and established works - those days seem behind us.

I saw my second Ha Ha Ha Production last weekend (the day before my birthday). When I was invited to attend I was told it was not a play but much like the first one I saw, a series of vignettes written and directed by Penelope Spencer.

My guest and I got there early and therefore saw the show from the start which must be noted as its not always the case. That encouraged me to think about writing as I would not have if I had arrived late. This is still not a review.

At some point I remember thinking who can a whole production be based on this theme. In some ways yes, it borrows from the film production Think Like a Man which was popular in the cinemas some time ago which I did not see.

The production was expertly written and in part due to the experiences of the progenitor and cast who would have brought their own ideas to the characters making for a thought provoking, sometimes raunchy exploration of ideas around gender construction and expression.

It started with five iconic Disney characters screaming to be released: Snow White, Rapaunzel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty all telling of their betrayal that led them to believe that they should preserve themselves for that Prince Charming who was sure to be on his way to take them into what they said was the fallacy of "happy ever after". It was feminist politics dressed up in its best theatre garb and full of sweet funny ironies to help the medicine go the end women still shown to need release and yes too from the trappings of Disney fiction.

Not to be sequential as I write and not review, but mention must be made of Jayron Remy's debut as the voice of God...yes God himself figured in the production. This two hander featured the other male in the cast Kearn Samuel. Kearn found himself wondering who suffered more after a break up when God intervened to help him shine light on his own shortcomings as a man rather than see the woman as unjustified in giving him a tabanca. The dialogue resembled a phone conversation and perhaps what was most refreshing about it was that they were able to act out the characters in plausible and creditable voices that were well inflected and toned.

Nikki Crosby did well in her role. Dressed in a red bustier and a black mini trench coat she spoke to women in the audience about knowing when to be a lady and when to be a...well you know. When meeting the boyfriends parents you are a lady....when you're home alone with your boyfriend and you're having sex....thats time for your inner know. Penny took the stage next in a piece that resonated well with its demographic...she was a hilarious daunted soul after her husband gave her a jar on Intense Wrinkle Remover for her birthday.

The second half was structured differently offering two longer pieces. The first was a journey in more ways than one as "white lady" Cecilia Salazar hired a taxi driven by Remy to take her to Maraval. Remy was beyond disappointed when the demure lady he was making a move on in his car was in fact on the way to properly create a scene outside her "man's" house...she had him and his wife ducking and hiding in the upscale community as she from the road hurled missiles calling for him to mind their illegitimate child...when the lady became the ho.

The beauty pageant was perfect as it showed the ladies in full grace competing for the crown in ways that required a woman with a little less couth...perhaps again that inner ho. It did provide us with what was in my estimation the best joke of the night: Abeo Jackson's character asked for a small belt to go around her tiny waist, Cecelia Salazar asked for a petie show for her small feet while Penny Spencer's character needed a band aid as she was seeing her period.

What must also be said in looking at the production as a whole is about its audience rapt attention and appreciation. The mild mannered Trinidadian seems very happy and comfortable taking in not productions that raise philosophical issues per se as in the great works that exist elsewhere but is more than eager to pack a hall when it challenges our ideas about ourselves and the values we share publicly and takes an informed position with a pitch that makes us look at our own now not so private lives.

The play offers many opportunities for laughter but the topics are all serious...issues like what women should aspire to be, that women have control over how they are seen and that they have a responsibility to be true to themselves. At first I thought of it as another exercise in advancing heteronormative values as there were not many references if any to any other type of relationship. However, I concluded, that this was too an attack on the status quo making the work an important one in that here we have a local script about local lives in scenarios not often seen.

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