A review of "Benefits of Your Struggle"
Two weeks ago, on Good Friday, I was invited to a free showing of a play written and directed by Cathy Augustine which was staged at the People's Pentecostal Church in Goodwill.
The advertised 7 pm start became something closer to 7.40 pm when the curtains were drawn.
What I thought was a pretty elaborate set caught my attention. There was a boutique centre stage left, a restaurant downstage left of centre, saloon & spa centre stage, a drawing-room- upstage right. The organizers made a great effort with the furnishings and fittings to provide a realistic picture. The store was labelled closed but the restaurant opened suggesting evening and did not compliment the lighting. The point of focus was set though as a couple was seen at a table with a child and after a long interlude of music which distracted from the conversation they were approached and made an order. The drama began as an obviously extravagant woman ordered an expensive meal of shrimps and lobsters much to the consternation of her husband who instead of carrot juice ordered by his wife opted for Coke for himself. Conflict in marriage was then set.
Mr. Banks, appropriately named, owner of the multi-million restaurant and bar seem to be also having issues with his marriage as he indicated to the customer who incidentally was a Christian brother. It was later revealed that the lavish lifestyle of wife Mrs. Banks who traded her Christian principles for extravagances like nail extension at $100 per nail while she sat and watched television all day and bossed around maid Tata. The dramatic effect created by the mumbling complaints of Tata was audible to the audience as her thoughts were made known even while she obeyed instructions. The pin on microphones captured this scene well and the audience responded accordingly.
The next customer to Mr. Bank's enterprise was Joepee who belied his grand entrance when he purchased brass and copper rings worth $20 and an equally cheap pink shoe for his intended wife much to the dismay of store clerk Cindy and Mr. Banks himself. In a very nonchalant and exaggerated stylish gait Joepee left, leaving us to wonder who would be that unfortunate woman.
Bebel was indeed portrayed as a 'Bebel' as she was a fool for love and believed everything Joepee told her, even the lie of his father being a pastor and the cost of the ring and shoe he bought. The foreshadowing of her itching fingers as soon as she put them on did not even alert her. A telephone call at the pool where he was called by his other lover and responded as if it were a guy calling was most comical particularly when the gullible Bebel rejoiced thinking he had won some sort of contract deal.
A chance visit to the salon and spa was where things would climax as Bebel and her competitor met. Incidentally, the same pink shoe worn by the other woman was enough to reveal his deception of both. Ironically the female 'enemies' joined forces to unleash an avalanche of blows with the very same pink shoe on Joepee. Not even his physical fitness exhibited in Boblow's gym could save him, only God, he was told by the ladies at the spa. He left broken and in tears.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Banks was reading a letter left for her by her husband who had had enough. He asked God to forgive him for taking this month away from it all away from an undependable and unsupportive wife who could not even provide his meals, had to be taught a lesson. Mr. Banks left his business in the charge of a woman accountant who had lost her job and everything after Maria and now Covid. She was counselled by a female pastor- 'Apostle Faith' to keep trusting God and indeed the benefit of her financial thirst was quenched via a simple request for a glass of water, she became the accountant in charge of Mr. Banks business.
The food outside was great and the seating in air-conditioned comfort, but the bar was undermanned and the youth present were restless and moved about too much in the sanctuary creating distractions. The stage was a bit cluttered as it tried to represent some four business units and home, all on one set. The sound and lights required some improvement. The resolution of acceptance is cliché enough in these types of gospel plays, but it was further compounded by a church service at the end which could be left out as all conflicts in this comedy were already resolved. This play did not require the over four hours it took as interest began to wane.
So good were the acting talents of 'Joepee' and veteran actress 'Mrs. Banks' and Mr. Banks all seem natural with their parts. Also, Cathy Augustine must be complimented for her efforts once again as one of the most prolific local playwright directors, certainly of the Christian faith, on the island. I love how she brought together the three themes of dishonesty, joblessness and materialism.