A State of Affairs – Less than the Sum of Its Parts

Basil Dawkins’ play A State of Affairs, currently playing at the Little Little Theatre, Kingston, is less than the sum of its parts. It benefits from a very talented creative team, both on and off the stage, and yet only produces at best a decent night’s entertainment. A State of Affairs is generally mildly amusing and occasionally funny, alas that is a rarity.

A State of Affairs feels like a comedy of errors from another era. Tony (Jerry Benzwick) attempts to bring greater honesty to his marriage by confessing to his wife about his numerous affairs. However, when things do not go exactly as plan (that is his wife Liz (Sakina Deer) does not see the merits of the disclosure) he decides to seek counselling so that he can curtail his wayward libido. Unfortunately counselling seems to offer more complications than solutions.

Indeed, the play’s absence of punch is a strange state of affairs. Dawkins, who is also the producer, is an experienced and talented playwright who has given Jamaica a slew of memorable hits including Toy Boy, Feminine Justice and A Gift for Mom. the play’s director, Douglas Prout, as has years of experience as an actor and a director.

Robin Baston once again creates a set that manages to make the tiny stage at the Little Little Theatre a much more dynamic space. So, A State of Affairs benefits from good use of stage. In the first scene, the bed dominates the entire space making it clear that the affairs to be explored will be of the sexual kind. And indeed, although it is an extremely unsexy play, much of the action does take place in the bedroom.

A State of Affairs also benefits from a talented ensemble cast. Ruth Ho Shing, who has become a Basil Dawkins production staple, is a competent and experienced actress. A State of Affairs makes the fifth Basil Dawkins production in which Ho Shing has appeared in as many years. Ho Shing also appeared in Uptown Bangarang, Uptown Bangarang II, Which Way is Out and For Better or Worse.

Ho Shing plays Inez Grossett a ruler wielding, bible toting Christian whose iron gray hair is symbolic of her iron maiden personality. Grossett is the church’s lead councillor and she believes that guidance should come from the word of the God, not from university degrees.

Rishelle Bellamy plays the church’s quirky secondary councillor (Miss Fenton), who, armed with a huge sandwich bag of pills, often seems the one in need of counselling. Bellamy again proves herself a very talented character actress and is responsible for the majority of the moments that bring real humour in the play. Her return to the commercial stage is a very welcome advent.

Jerry Benzwick seems unable to fully capture the nature of his character, and he is unable to deliver most of the comedy which should have come from his character. Sakina Deer delivers a competent performance. However, the character, which seems very similar to others she has played, may not have sufficiently challenged her.

A State of Affairs’ comedic thrust is in keeping with Dawkins trend toward comedy, which began with Uptown Bangarang, which having allowed him to cop the Best Comedy Actor Boy Award spawned Uptown Bangarang II. Yet where in that earlier play he found cause to repeat the experience, this time around, it is an affair easily forgotten.

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