On Thursday July 9, 2015 I walked into the Little Carib Theatre for the opening of “Till Death do us Part…”, an original play written and directed by Rhesa Samuel and produced by Carmino Productions. I was secretly praying that it would not turn out to be a Tyler Perryish play: one where all the black men are drunken, abusive, adulterers to their feeble, doe eyed, religious wives. Broken marriages, domestic violence and toxic relationships pervade our everyday Caribbean lives and I suppose for many writers those scenarios make for sensational theatrical pieces. I am overjoyed to report that the production brilliantly stood on its own and my preconceived notions were incorrect.
I must admit that I am a sucker for a creative front of house display and/or themed house music. For me, either can set the stage for the production by giving the audience a taste of what will come. In this case, the front of house display created a scene which juxtaposed matrimonial bliss with the scene of a heinous crime, and I loved it. It created intrigue and I started to build my own little story in my mind. Sadly, a significant amount of that feeling of intrigue waned as I stood idly for forty minutes outside the auditorium waiting for the production to begin. I know we have become so accustomed to tardiness that it has evolved into “ah Caribbean ting” that everyone shrugs off, but I believe that time should be treated with high regard. TICK! TOCK! Time is always of the essence.
Before the play actually commenced there was a short presentation on the goals and objectives of Carmino Productions. The new production company will be striving to provide young, talented thespians with the opportunities to showcase their works. Albeit, I felt that this portion of the programme could have been reserved for the end especially in light of the late start. Still, it was heart-warming to know that the company is aiming to develop the Theatrical Arts. It is a well-known saying that in order to know where we are going, we must know where we came from. Carmino Productions awarded Mr. Albert Leveau of the Trinidad Theatre Workshop the first ever Carmino Award of Excellence for his hard work and dedication in paving the way in Theatrical Arts in Trinidad and Tobago. A TRUE PIONEER!
The play was a murder mystery surrounding the death of one of the characters. The drama unfolded as the characters gave their account of the period leading up murder as the detective (Yasser S. Ali) tried to piece together the motive for her death.
Pauline George (Syntyche Bishop) and Kevin George (Nickolai Salcedo) had superb chemistry on stage. They were able to immerse themselves in their characters and develop them fully, so much so that I believed every moment of it. However, my favourite performance of the night came from Nickolai Salcedo who was simply phenomenal. The intensity with which he portrayed a misunderstood, frustrated, and unappreciated husband was gripping. Infidelity on the part of the wife is an interesting dynamic in the Caribbean context that often goes untold. Bishop’s portrayal of Pauline George, the materialistic and manipulative vixen was captivating. She also got the opportunity to show off her singing chops, which added vulnerability and depth to the character.
The great chemistry continued in the relationship between Philbert Peters (Arnold Goindhan) and Roslyn Peters (Lavonne Isaac-Bhola). Character acting can present various challenges to actors and it calls for a significant degree of dedication. Goindhan had wonderful stage presence and was committed fully to becoming a grandpa. From the little shivers to the slowed pace in his speech and movement, the character was believable and provide a bit of comedic relief. On the other hand, Isaac-Bhola had some difficulties in maintaining the age of the character, but it was not detrimental to the play. I must give Kudos to Samuel for writing about a devoted marriage that has survived the test of time. The couple is not perfect but they are deeply in love with each other. They act as a beacon of hope for the audience that love can triumph in a time where abuse and divorce have become the norm.
I must commend the supporting cast for their hard work and applaud their commitment. However, a note for my fellow budding actors; intimate spaces like The Little Carib Theatre require a heightened level of awareness while on stage since the audience can see every detail. Every movement, action and reaction has to come from a place of clear intention. There were moments I felt that some characters lacked sufficient intention and it resulted in their actions being unjustifiable. Also, there must be sensitivity to changes in scenes rather than breaking the mood by moving too early before a complete blackout. Special mention must go out to Renaldo Frederick for his portrayal of Marcus Phillips who was the best friend of Kevin George. Frederick’s comedic timing was brilliant and the character was able to naturally lighten the mood which did not feel overdone or awkward.
In terms of set design, I was left feeling underwhelmed. The stage for The Little Carib Theatre is not exceptionally large so to have props look minuscule was disappointing especially since the play is modern and all the scenes take place in the living room or kitchen. I would have loved if it was more reflective of an everyday Caribbean home. Since the play was written to employ the use of flashbacks, lighting played a crucial part is setting the scenes. I would have liked the lighting cues to be sharper and consistent to ensure that the audience appreciated the flashbacks. But I will chalk it up to opening night jitters.
In the final analysis, I was extremely impressed by the overall production. Rhesa Samuel’s writing and direction allowed for a wonderful balance of drama and a hint of comedy which everyone could appreciate. The cast did an amazing job in bringing this work life and I am very hopeful for the development of the Theatrical Arts. Keep it up Rhesa Samuel and Carmino Productions.
“Till Death Do us Part…” concludes its run Saturday 11th July 2015 at The Little Carib Theatre. I hope you get a chance to see it before it closes because to miss it would be a crime! For bookings and more info call 747-CARM (2276).