Dahlia Harris’ play Judgment, currently playing at the Pantry Playhouse in Kingston, is a hilarious look at friendship and revenge. The entertaining production is three parts comedy and one part drama with a dash of intrigue to taste.
Harris has taken on the role of head cook and bottle-washer for the production as she is the writer, producer, and director of the show, as well as a member of the cast. Harris takes on these multiple roles admirably.
Indeed, Judgment allows Harris to shine brightly. It declares that not only is she a talented actress capable of delivering both comedy and dramatic ethos but she is also a good writer. The play is also well-produced and her direction is more than adequate. However, the latter is also the skill she needs to work most on as there were some shortcomings.
Judgment is a three-hander. Along with Harris (who plays Sasha) the play also features the inimitable seasoned actress Deon Silvera (as Janet) while newcomer Andre Morris (playing Antonio) makes the third prong of this triangle.
The plot is simple yet engaging. Set in New York City, Judgment explores the lives of two Jamaican expatriates, Sasha and Janet as they maneuver work, love and the ever looming possibility of deportation. Sasha and Janet have been friends for years despite their very different approaches to life. Where Janet is generally conservative and hardworking, Sasha is far more gregarious and believes in giving life a good squeeze and taking whatever comes out, whether it is hers or not.
The bonds of the women’s friendship is however set to be tested when Janet, consumed by the absence of love in the real world decides to invite a man from cyberspace into her brick and mortar life. This new man Antonio, who appears to be around half Janet’s age, is hot as hell and with the kind of sweet talk than can cause diabetes appears far too good to be true. Eventually, Sasha must decide between cautioning her friend or saving her own skin.
Judgment is wonderfully bouyed by its talented cast and the engaging nature of the characters who easily pull you in. Indeed the characters and the performances are possibly the strongest element of the production.
Harris, is by far the gem of this production and in truth her role, Sasha, is a far meatier and better crafted character than Janet who is a lot more gullible and ultimately her unwillingness to give any credence to her friends warnings dampen her likability.
Sasha on the other hand, is the kind of character that audiences love to love. She is morally questionable but not completely without scruples. She is loud, brash, and funny.
Interestingly, Silvera and Harris almost take on role reversals in terms of the character types that they have generally played. Silvera is clearly attempting to stretch her thespian muscles with this kind of role. Yet while her performance is steady, it is not sufficiently nuanced, though it is hard to determine whether this is due to shortcomings in the acting, the direction or the writing. Maybe it is a combination of all three.
Morris could also have benefited from stronger direction as his performance was unbalanced, his dual role seeming to demand more than he was able to deliver. He is however a competent performer is very likely to develop well with time.
Additionally, though the majority of Judgment takes place in Janet’s living room the play never feels static, possibly due to the constant movement of the actors than the general propulsion of the plot.
A trip to take in Judgment is time well spent as it certainly provides sufficient bang for the buck.