'Serious Business' offers serious laughter
Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer
Green Gables theatre is synonymous with productions that generate an avalanche of laughter often from bawdy lines, one dimensional characters and quality directing. Paul O. Beale's latest production, Serious Business, is no exception.
Set in a church called Deep Valley Revival located in an inner-city community, Serious Business begins with some heart-shaking gospel songs. But this is no ordinary church. Pastor Bruce, also called Shepherd, one of the founding members of the church board, and his wife, Sister Sonia, together have more skeletons in their proverbial closet than there are churches in Jamaica.
However, the arrival of Brother Shebby, a young minister from New York, and a very feisty girl by the name of Hot Pepper opens the doors of the closets and the skeletons spew out like a geyser.
Brother Shebby's introduction to the fold comes through the employment route, via Elder, the other founding member of Deep Valley Revival church. Elder employs Shebby after learning about his ministry on Facebook and Twitter. Shebby is given the assignment to lure the youths of the community into the church so that, once again, the coffers show substantial profits because, after all, operating a church is 'serious business'.
With the walls of the "sample church" (aptly described by a member of the audience) decorated with quotations from Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Bob Marley and Mavado written to look like scripture verses from the Bible, Beal and director Michael Nicholson launch a searing attack on the Church. At times, the witty language and actions of the characters seem to push the boundaries. But Beale and Nicholson, aided by some good timing from the cast, had the capacity-size audience convulsed with laughter.
Nicholson's directing gave the musical-gospel comedy great legs to walk on. The struggles for power by the characters were captured in some fantastic blockings. Brother Shebby's (played by Keith 'Shebada' Ramsay) entrance was effective. However, the placement of Shepherd (Maxwell Grant) and Elder (Volier Johnson) during the concert scene seemed a bit awkward.
Dressed to the hilt in the attire of a Pocomania revivalist, cape and all, both Grant and Johnson looked like large marshmallows. But their acting was somewhat contrasting. Johnson played the one-dimensional Elder, as a cool buffoon, while Grant played the changing faces of the firebrand Shepherd with authority: from the dapper man going to court to the spirited abuser.
Ramsay was superb. His ability to time his lines and actions to produce the required emotional response from the audience gave the comedy its right colouring, likewise his knack to maintain a straight face while delivering some of the most potent but comical lines. But in spite of his brilliance, some words were lost as a result of poor enunciation. Perhaps he may also want to tone down the bulging of the eyes; his style of acting does not need such mundane technique.
Other members of the cast included Wayne Newby as Papa Glory, Junior Williams as Finger, Pinciana Ennis as Creamy, Abigail Grant as Hot Pepper and Deon Silvera as Sister Sonia. They all gave energetic performances.
Grant and Ennis sang beautifully and with conviction. And Ennis played the retarded Creamy with consistency, something that Williams needs to work harder at. Silvera seemed to enjoy her role and gave a noteworthy act, but she may want to retire the nasal sound for a change.
Audley Fearon and Quindell Ferguson's designs were quite applicable. With no walls dividing the two areas, the office and the main part of the church, Fearon's set was more than functional; it was appropriate. Ferguson's costumes were well chosen and helped to reinforce each characters personality as well as the occasion.