I missed Dorbrene O’Marde’s Harambee days. Oh I was in the world but far yet from being of the world…so that while coming up I always had an awareness of Antigua’s theatrical heyday, it was always just a little bit in my rear view, not something I had had any practical engagement with (or memory of if I did). When those old enough to know talk about it though, you get a sense that you missed something. Last night, at the staging of Dorbrene O’Marde’s This World Spin One Way, I got a glimpse of that missing something.
This World Spin One Way, to be clear, is not one of the pieces from Haramabee and Antiguan theatre’s late 1970s prime time; no this was a 1990s production. I was working by then, and though I remember it as Dorbrene’s return to the theatre…I somehow missed it…and don’t remember why. I remember it got positive reviews though.
And having seen it for myself last night at the Cathedral Cultural Centre, I can say they were well deserved. Sure, the rhythm could be smoother, and likely would be if they had the luxury of a real theatrical run, nights on end of repetition until everything became second hand. But the bumps can be overlooked, I think, because there was hardly enough to make the ride bumpy…at least not beyond that dictated by a script and production delving on one level into the messiness of man and woman business and at a deeper level a philosophical questioning vis-à-vis the nature of being.
Basic plot – man and woman shack up, woman cheats on man, they break up; years later, they meet up, and meet up again, and again, and again, such dalliances leading to internal questioning and external gossip.
Beyond the plot, we’re looking at the dimensions of love, whether jealousy is a product of love or possession, do we always want what we don’t have, trust, desire, faithlessness, forgiveness, impotence (emotional and physical), forgetting, letting go, moving on.
For me, it provided a uniquely unblurred view into the baffling (at least to my Venus-mind) nature of male logic – the way loyalty and infidelity can exist within that logic without irony or contradiction. The twist, of course, is that we are reminded that women are just as f*cked up as men when it comes to being satisfied with who they have, or perhaps it is, that as humans we are never satisfied – we always want the thing we don’t have.
Then again, maybe it’s not that, because one doesn’t get the sense that the high profile accountant and ambassador’s wife would have orbited any-man trying to figure out if she wanted a taste, it was this man, and the history they had, and the way he stimulated her mind, and challenged her, and her bafflement at how cynical he had become, her guilt maybe that she had been at least in part the cause of it, her… so many maybes.
As for him, a swirl of defeat, bitterness, self-pity, and self-deception, a mix up mix up of feelings tamped down, because maybe it hurt too much to feel, to care.
If the actors could benefit from a series of performances to get the rhythm down, I could certainly benefit from a series of viewings, multiple readings if you will, to pin down the true meaning.
The main sense I had coming away, re the dynamics of being men, women, human in this world together is, it’s complicated. And come to think of it, This World Spin One Way is similar to that Meryl Streep-Alec Baldwin film with its swing shift of humor and pathos and old fire stick plotline – albeit that O’Marde’s play with its deft word play (in place of slapsticky shenanigans) made for a more sophisticated experience, never mind all the f*cks (tame in any case by Hollywood’s and possibly Broadway’s standards).
This World Spin One Way did make me nostalgic for something I’d never had, though as I was reminded it did exist, yes, exist here, once upon a time; theatre that trusted its material enough to pull back on the theatrics, to play the quiet beats, to set the tone for the kind of laughter it wanted to invoke, to set the context, to allow for genuine and nuanced human interaction, to …be as real as life.
Good play, well written play, well directed play, well-staged play (for the most part), good performances all around but especially so that of Dr. Alvin Edwards, not because his character was likeable, he often wasn’t, but because he so successfully made him human.
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