A review of "Laugh it out"
I can't remember the last time that two leading theatre groups staged back-to-back productions in Dominica. Recently, the New Dimension Theatre (NDT), a Golden Drum awardee, presented its comedy, "Laugh it Out" which came on the heels of a Teyat Pawol production.
Now in its 35th year of existence, the NDT has thrilled Dominica theatre fans as well as those in some regional territories.
The suspense of "Laugh it Out" revolved around Mr. Carlson (played by Aldia Titre) who carried a suitcase all around, the contents known to him only, it would appear. Some of the characters were Judge Lucy (played by Palestrina Rolle-George); his would-be lover 'Lovely" (played by Narissa Brown); Ugee (played by debutant Micheal Desbonnes); Stella (played by Everlyn Coipel-Fontaine); May Kay (played by veteran actress on the comeback Norma Payne) and Ethel (played by lead actress and an audience favourite, Donille Blackmore).
The division from the 'get-go' was obvious and the stage design told its own story. On stage left were those dressed in red, supporters of Mr. Carlson's party. In their corner was a bar with drinks at their disposal. In the blue corner was Hardyboy or Ray Charles (as Ethel quipped so often), played by Jerry Coipel, a founding NDT member. They occupied themselves playing dominoes. The symbolic court presided by Judge Lucy stood elevated centre stage.
The set became the platform from which societal ills were discussed and political speeches were given. Commentaries and anecdotes spanned a range of topics, including double parking, Black Sigatoka, immodest attire in church and the taking of wildlife illegally. There were political aspersions and jabs about 'no law, no constitution,' 'change is a must,' 'leadership is everything,' who was jealous of dimples and the passing of the olive branch.
Initially, the patrons were caught up in and amused at the antics of both political leaders. There were Mr. Carlson's "Five More Years" speeches and Hardyboy's antics and stern, none-smiling 'hard' face which sharply contrasted with his opponent's dimples. The warring factions of both sides of the divide also featured Stella, saucy in blue and Ethel who was red hot and peppery in red. The Englishman Franko, expertly played by the experienced Julian Benjamin, was most convincing in his role, as he delivered a series of anecdotes.
Nawana Shillingford played the role of Dew who lost her mind as a result of a robbery. Her only words were "Hey, Hey". Dew found herself at both the red and blue sides of the divide, a subtle representation of persons who can't make up their minds about who they support. Dew spoke loudly without words, representing the Party in Power (PIP) people, as she slid across to the red side after being given a handout by the leader.
Peggy, played by Melisha Joseph, seems to represent those on the fringes of society, the radicals who think marijuana would be legalised under her watch. Her green turned yellow which she got rid of in disgust, realising she was of no consequence with the voters.
The patrons laughed at the various court scenes and exchanges between Tanty (played by Meritta Hyacinth), the magistrate who used her position to side with her half-sister (played by Andra Nanton-Bidoo), to punish Ugee, leaving the confused court policeman (played by the naturally funny Phillipson James) uncertain of who he should arrest.
Bev (played by Slyma Dejean) seems to be one of the persons from the Diaspora who received a red ticket to come to vote and was chastised by Stella who created another reason for the numerous confrontations with Ethel, much to the delight of patrons.
Here's a funny bit of dialogue between the two:
Stella: "When I brokes I like a beast."
Ethel: "Well you always brokes man, because you always like a beast!'
And so while the taunts and war of words continued, the gold digger, the seductive 'Lovely' played up her love for Bobo in the hope that the contents of the suitcase would reveal money for a hand that was not made for fighting but "counting money".
But the dilemma was that he was not prepared to open it yet, and his estranged wife possessed the key! Still, he guarded it like his life depended on it.
Meanwhile, Oscar (played by Billy Lewis) was outwitted by Lovely as she pretended to be pregnant in order to gauge his love for her. Oscar failed and Lovely walked away. So much for men and their responsibility of fatherhood. The director had made his point.
True to writer director Steve Hyacinth's Calypso drama style, the theme song was done by Merlin "Wizard" St Hilliare and references were made to the " Ca eat concrete," " De country nice," " It is what it is" compositions from the 2013 and 2015 calypso competitions.
Now, as promised, it was time to reveal the contents in that suitcase. Blue and Red all gathered, the knife came out to cut it open, a letter , the contents read by the judge , Lovely stares in disbelief, Ethel delights in her twelve damming photos; the Englishman Franko quickly disappears and Bobo collapses. Comical? Yes, we did laugh. But I thought the play was lacking dramatic elements and execution. The production was very stereotyped with speeches which fringed on repetitive dialogue at times. Three characters suffered from foot defects and Ethel was the same character we had seen scores of times.
The court scenes were pretty lengthy. Also, the long list of the results of an election all was privy to held no real intrigue and could have been omitted. For its humour, I would rate it at seven out of 10. But for its theatrical value, I do not think it was one of NDT's best.