RS/RR Productions describes “The Real Housewives of Port of Spain” as “a sexy comedy about women for women…” and it definitely lived up to that vision. The housewife was never portrayed as the sensual woman of power but rather the unseen, submissive home maker and child raiser. Within today’s society, a young woman rarely aspires to be a housewife. It is usually a role that is taken up as a matter of circumstances or consequences. The Production, with Richard Ragoobarsingh at the helm, sought to destroy the antiquated stereotypes and even some of the modern images surrounding housewives with a Trini twist; from submissive to fiery, from the salon to the pole dancing studio, from the shallow TV personalities to women of substance. It provided a rare glimpse into the psyche of women. With such raging reviews there was considerable eagerness and intrigue on my part. I felt like I was capturing an opportunity that I thought was lost. My high expectations for the production were met on Friday 3rd June 2016 as it lived up to the spectacular reviews.
I am absolutely in love with the Central Bank Auditorium. The intimacy of the space makes it the ideal platform to showcase the crème de la crème of the performing arts world and provides a great test of the craft. As a group, the women were sensational and having such relatable characters allowed them to connect with the audience on profound levels. I love their respective portrayals of their dynamic characters and they were able to play off of each other’s energies which brought the production to life. Comedy is all about timing and the acute awareness of fellow actors and audience responses are crucial. The women showcased the mastery of their art form. The use of space on the stage was superb, there was no timidity and the actresses’ performances were testimonies to the fact that they earned their rights to be on that stage. The choice of music was quite intentional and not simply used to fill quiet moments. The use of modern songs mostly by strong female artists maintained the theme and tone of female empowerment and strength.
It is no secret that I am an immense fan of Leslie-Ann Lavine who played “Sarah”, the reserved and more mature housewife. Lavine had to take the audience on the journey of battling terminal breast cancer as her character coped with notions of her fragile mortality. Her emotional yet sincere performance brought the audience to tears as she dealt with a reality that many women currently are facing. In this laugh out loud comedy there were moments of deep reflection and I absolutely love it. Penelope Spencer, who played “Bev”; the promiscuous, experienced, quick tongued fighter of the group, and Debra Boucaud Mason; the rough around the edges “Rita” also gave outstanding performances. The stage is their home; the level of comfort and mastery are beyond words. These women were able to draw us in and allowed us to live the story with them.
In such an excellent piece of work there is very little that I took issue with, however, there were moments I wished there was greater character development. It took quite some time to hear the snippets of the life stories of Bev (Penelope Spencer) and Faith (Zo-Mari Elizabeth Tanker) and even Gabby (Corinne Browne) who all were not housewives. Were they meant to learn from the Real Housewives? Who knows? Maybe they were meant to. I am of the view that the scenes when each of the supporting characters was being forced to swap their life stories which were followed by their emotional breakdowns felt forced. I was reminded that it was a staged piece of work and I preferred when the stories unravelled more organically.
In the final analysis the characters dealt with body image issues, the battle with breast cancer, infidelity, domestic violence but reminded us that life is about making connections. Though these women were very different, at the core they desired that inherent need to connect and they were able to achieve that goal by helping each other through their respective insecurities and challenges. The production was exceptional because it was relatable; the rich characters who expressed everyday human experiences represented the strong female characters in our own lives. In the end we connected to them. Brava!
After a nine month run, RS/RR Productions’ “Real Housewives of Port of Spain closed on Sunday June 5th 2016 at the Central Bank Auditorium.