Monday, March 17, 2008
A Review by Andrea Daley
A Jamaican’s dream of coming to America, An all too familiar story, A one-woman rendition;—are all captions which may be ascribed to Jamaica farewell. This Debra Ehrhardt tale, told in beautiful soliloquy, is tidily unwrapped onstage at the Soho Playhouse. The audience travels with Ms. Ehrhardt from childhood through early adulthood, as she navigates this uncertain path to America.
Now in America, she finds herself reminiscing on this life while in a line at Starbucks, no less. You see, perusing the menu, (where the choice of beverage is as opportune as life in America), where “you can have anything you want;” can make an immigrant wistful.
She weaves this personal tapestry with colorful threads of her Jamaican middle-class life, filled with fond memories of a stoic, but nurturing mother and an often absent father, whose penchant for gambling and drinking has taken hold of his life, rendering him incapable of loving and nurturing his family.
She appears (first scene) on stage as a young girl, and effortlessly wends through the different personas critical to the development of the story. Her ability to take this nascent time of her life and make it so relatable is commendable. It allows the audience who knows the Jamaican childhood experience to travel back in time and relive theirs. She recalls her childhood dream and the many twists and turns her journey takes. Growing up listening to her childhood friend tell tales of her American travels and possessions, whilst silently believing that she was better suited for that experience. As many of us know these ideas take root as an impressionable child with the awe of foreign goods, foreign visits, not to mention foreign visitors with foreign tales.
As childhood fantasies give way to adult dreams, coming to America is now front and centre of Debra’s life. Debra finds, it not so easy however. She describes her family as somewhere in the middle of the social hierarchy in Jamaica. So coming from of the upper-middle, ‘uptown set’ with ‘good pedigree’, and being educated, should guarantee an easy pass at the American Embassy, right? Well, after her mother is denied and Debra’s many Embassy trips yield the same results; the mission takes on a new urgency. As she puts it, she has to come to America “by the hook or by the crook.”
After all, people of her middle and upper class background were “under siege” by the democratic socialism ideology of the ‘70’s, a message preached by then Prime Minister, Michael Manley. With threats of communism looming, many of Debra’s ilk ran (overseas); even her maid gets a visa. So why should she stay?
Fate delivers her a series of converging events. She meets an American man whose position as a CIA agent gets her working overtime to keep his infatuation with her in overdrive. This seems to be her ticket out. When she overhears her boss making plans to illegally get money out of the country to Miami, she hastily volunteers to courier said package, escorted of course by her CIA man. What happens afterwards borders on near mayhem and personal tragedy, filled with hilarity and nerve racking (travel) and travails.
This Jamaican story is poignant and funny. The development is sharp and precise. Playwright and performer, Debra Ehrhardt captures this passage and the beginnings of this journey with clarity and wit. She demonstrates a complete range of fully-developed acting chops, whilst taking us on this journey. It is remarkable and experiential as you engage in this adventure. She relies on nothing but imaginative, clever writing, beautiful cadence, audience engagement and storytelling.
It’s a spirited, vibrant performance filled with enough charm to power the room. In fact, it’s just her on stage, an hour and a half, with a few boxes and a podium.
Monday, February 25, 2008
I know the New York life is hectic and maybe to a greater degree frenetic for many. I mean we are always running; work, school, more work, the kids, the laundry, the pet, the spouse, significant other, boyfriend, girlfriend, (some serious juggling here), more work. I mean endless running. Who needs a gym? Seriously. So insignificant activities like let’s see, putting on makeup often gets done on the run; in the car (often whilst driving) and for many, on the train.
In this city that never sleeps, we are decidedly unabashed, unfazed and fearless. Most of all very little surprise us, but many things fascinate us--like an intense makeup (I mean beauty) session on the train. I know, many of you thought “of the sexual kind,” and I am sure that happens too. But no, a lot of women get their “glam,” on during their commute. So, my ever so frequent makeup lesson continues ad nauseam on the A train. Let me share this grossly, ghastly, over-the top display with you. Good thing I started this blog.
Now this skill requires deft, skill and a healthy dose of confidence (maybe slight narcissism). The young lady has clearly planned out this daily regimen. I mean she comes packing some; (serious make-up kit), armed and ready. By the time she gets to my stop, she’s already in full throttle: the canvas, err; I mean face is already primed and ready for paint. The foundation is already on; the eyeliner lines thick and full. Many back and forth motions with the pencil clearly took place (don’t poke your eye out). The eye shadow is an endless series of swaths from corner to corner. I am thinking, aren’t your hands tired? Aren’t you a wee-bit self conscious? I mean I would be. I clearly lack the mettle for this kind of thing.
Now after this exhaustive bit, I know what’s coming next, (of course, remember I see this every morning). It’s the eyelash sweep, better known as mascara time. It’s upsweep, upsweep, upsweep; too many repetitive motions to list. Now that makes my eyelids flutter—better mine than hers, right. We don’t want to see her blinded by this action, now do we? By this time, panda eyes are weighty, dark and weighty. But the work in progress is carefully examined in the hand-held mirror. Check, check, check; expression says, “I’m satisfied with the work so far.” So she whips out the blush-brush, a few strokes on the cheeks, then lip-gloss on pouty lips; a careful moisturizing of skilled hands with sweet-smelling fragranced stuff, a reach for what I think is fake magazine read, and finally, makeup session‘s over.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
So ladies, my guess is, it’s about time for a no-nonsense, get-smart approach to relationships and the dreaded V-Day. There are 365 days in a year, and a lifetime to live. Whether we are college-educated or high school dropouts, blue-collar workers or high-end spinsters, we are more often than not, quite adept at making life-determining decisions; capable of meeting the challenges of life head on. However when it comes to matters of the heart, the brain seems to take leave of our bodies. I mean seriously we are stumped, bowled and as in a game of football, sacked. We vacillate, we obfuscate (I mean the clearest, solvable relationship dilemmas). How then do explain the serious self-inflicted punishments we giddily heap on ourselves, one bad relationship after the other. Gut-wrenching, tear-filled, heart-aching, hyper-ventilating heart-breaks, that we swear time and time again won’t ever happen to us.
If truth be told we usually know when something is right and we near damn well know when it isn’t. The signs are there, however in our desperation for “love,” we ignore them, often to our peril. Let’s examine the obvious and most immediate. When you around, the cell is always off and how come the home phone never rings, (maybe it’s unplugged). If it rings…he doesn’t take the call. And how about the when he’s away. Does it take several calls to find him? Is it usual that he has to call you back or calls you several minutes or hours later? Dates and hang-time are far and few between. And, have you been introduced to the “boys?” Have you been invited to the crib?
Well my dears, you may want to pay attention. What better time to wise-up and avoid an inconvenient bust-up? As Valentines Day approaches, don’t be caught silly, get smart. Don’t get yourself in a tizzy, get busy.
Here are a few tips to survive this “unnecessary societal symbol of love.”
The obvious would be to say ignore the day. But with the media what it is and with the commercial vehicle in serious over-drive, how can you escape this obvious collision course?
The next best thing is to embrace the day as YOUR day. If narcissistic behavior is to be embraced the time is now. I mean indulge in some serious self-love, ignore everyone. I mean love yourself to pieces.
- Remember that the day is too much of a societal symbol
- Be confident and self-assured, you don’t need outside validation
Make two resolutions at the start of the New Year. Along with the usual, (you know lose weight, stop smoking, be friendlier; yatty, yatty, yatty,) how about a few more personal goals?
Focus, Focus, Focus, on you!
Write yourself little notes to remind yourself of all the niceties of which you are deserving. You may want to keep them in a “love box,” or journal. Pull one out each day. You may be surprised by the pleasure and empowerment you get from a little self-indulgence
Make the bedroom a love-nest with all the things you like; scented candles, mood music, your favorite movie, a good book, rose-petals, chocolate, a glass of wine, and tell yourself, “I deserve all this!”
For those with the need for a more intense, passionate experience, there are those personal gadgets that meet and satisfy those urgent and sometimes pressing needs…a little guilty pleasure makes for a great release.
For those who are more communal;
Get together with all your single friends for a drink. Share your love and friendship with gifts and treats for each other
Remember love is universal-in short it’s not just a man/woman thing. Designate that day as family love-fest day. Make it an annual ritual (dinners, trips, etc.), anything that works.
And if it is in your soul to enjoy the day with a special someone, prepare, prepare, prepare. First order of business, (gut check time), stay away from bad relationships. Stop ignoring the warning signs.
And lastly refuse to share. That will guarantee that the one you are with will be around for all your February 14s.
This is a perennial topic, which has probably been debated ever since the practice of doing something extra special for a chosen loved one on this designated day, became tradition.
No doubt there have been causes for happiness as well as disappointments associated with the attention given to February 14th. Through the years, some dread this day, coming as it does on the heels of the Holidays spending.
Aha! Herein lays the rub. Like most celebrated days, a day perhaps intended for modest recognition of some person or ideal, has become painfully linked with overspending woes. Secondly, the ego desires that a “show” be made to establish the status of the receiver and giver amongst their peers.
Valentine’s Day can therefore be stressful and often bring out ridiculous behavior. Some call it survival or self esteem preservation when they send expensive flowers to themselves, at the office. Others are vexed if the flowers don’t arrive by the end of the workday, so that their co workers may feel envious. The sender, if there is actually one, will probably never be able to atone, even if a candlelight dinner was in the offering. You could add your own anecdotes ad infinitum.
But what of mysterious Love? I am sure that we all agree that it should be expressed every day. After all, our Source, by whatever name or through whatever creed, has Love as the main aspect. Acts of Love can bring tremendous blessings. The intention is what matters and is what uplifts the receiver, the giver and the witnesses, if there are any. The expression of love cannot be merely for the temporary thrill or seduction.
Arthur Wing Pinero is quoted as saying, “Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.” Another learned man said, “love is real only for the young and that the mature must look at it with wiser eyes, and see it for the many other things it is – selfishness, robbery and the hiatus between deceits.” Diana Ross and Rod Stewart renditions of “Forever Young”, speaks to the aspect of love’s rejuvenating force.
So to conclude the matter, if we can look at love as through the eyes of our inner child, each day expressing sincerity without reserve, two beings who confide all could experience a strange mixture of love and friendship, sensuality and respect, indulgence and admiration, an amazing mixture of the human and divine, so as to dwarf any commercially designated “love day.”