by St Clair Browne
How does one mix the topics of sex, The Bible, men issues, women issues, ethics, monogamy, fornication and adultery, while answering the questions “What do men really want?” and “Why do men cheat?” all in a delightful bowl of comedic drama?
Ask all the Barbadians who were treated to the humorous, diverse and thought-provoking drama Da Man Dem delivered by the English-based Focus Arts Promotions at Frank Collymore Hall a recent weekend. There were three showings: one on Saturday and two on Sunday –– one matinee and one evening show –– which patrons consumed with great delight.
Da Man Dem is the sequel to the international drama Love, Sax And All That Jazz that had little to do with musical jazz and saxophones, but everything to do with women’s thoughts on love, sex and all that other jazzy stuff.
The play opened at the bar Oasis with Lloyd Reid, who played the character Phil, to whom the audience immediately gravitated for all his charm and wit. He alerted the audience that marriage was a con-tract –– the “tract” being a written expression or agreement, while the “con” meant to trick or deceive.
Such an opening scene had the audience in great anticipation of what else might be on the platter.
Phil wanted no part of marriage, and saw those who entered into the con-tract as fools, because, as he said, “they would fall into the trap of sexual prison, where married men only enjoyed nookie once a month or 12 times a year; and that was when it was a good year” –– with which his buddy Brian (Courtney Hoilet) agreed.
This educational male banter between Phil, the player, and Brian, the monogamous elder, was to benefit Nigel (Rohan Alexander), the bartender, who was a 30-year-old virgin still waiting on “the right one” to spend the rest
of his life with.
Let me say this, the playwright, producer, director, set builder Alan Charles is a Christian, and the majority of the 14 cast members, who are Adventists, handled the risqué topic of sexual intimacy artfully with subjective and euphemistic terms like “the promised land” “harvest” “food” “the garden” and the most referenced “nookie”. This poetic style seems similar in nature to the Song Of Solomon.
Alan showed his skill as a writer by touching literally every aspect of sexuality from a man’s perspective, with no part within the play being crude and unpleasant. His directing skills where patent, the movement on stage quite free –– several scenes boasting a continuity in the background that never once took away from the main activity.
The icing on the cake was the localization of the play as the actors made reference to people and things Barbadian –– Frutee, Alison Hinds, Rhianna, Bridgetown –– and other subtle descriptives within their humorous dialogue.
The play was fast-paced, there never being a dull moment. It was laughter from beginning to end, which was quite refreshing –– one being able to easily identify the difference between England’s language-based humour and America’s slapstick
type of comedy.
Also on the Da Man Dem platter was a love triangle –– between Alfred (Adrian Belton) the owner of the bar Oasis, Louise (Michelle Homer), a long lost flame of Alfred’s, and Kylie (Amma Aning), half-owner of Oasis and a secret admirer of Alfred.
Added to the plate were the women’s narratives on men and their outlandish behaviour(s), delivered over soft drinks on the rocks. These three women were Louise (mentioned before), Shanice (Michelle Charles) and Kelly (Eugenie Barton) whom the audience loved totally, possibly for her dim, irrational
points of view.
Alan Charles also made a cameo appearance. He took centre stage as he presented the character The Black Man, serving up the audience-engaging poem What A Man Wants. It had men and women shaking their heads in agreement, and clapping and laughing in delight.
The play does alert many of us to what a man wants, while at the same time presenting us with the needs of a woman –– knowing this would in turn bring a man nearer to his wishes.
Phil, Alfred and Nigel answered the question “Why do men cheat?”. Phil’s response was “variety is the spice of life”, Nigel the virgin bartender interjected with the reasoning “because some men are selfish, greedy and lack self-control”, while Phil responded “because women let them”.
Phil went on to explain his statement: “Most outside women know the man is married or in a relationship; however, they still pursue them.”
Phil’s conclusion? If the outside women did not let the men –– himself included –– they would not be able to cheat.
The curtain came down with some delightful twists and surprises, bringing closure to many of the Da Man Dem issues and conflicts –– and thunderous applause from an obviously contented audience.
Alan Charles and Focus Arts Promotions told Barbados TODAY they were hoping to bring the Da Man Dem production back to Barbados. And, when they do, I believe it could enjoy three to four weekends of showings –– affording many a patron gratifying nights of pleasurable humour, ringing laughter, but deep reflection.