The often heard yet sometimes brushed aside scenario in too many homes is the childlike phrasing, “I need to know my father”. In this Marcia Brown and Clevland O. McLeish script the varied realities of life come up front and centre.
The play, which may best be described as a Dramedy, takes us through the ebbs and flows of familiar lives. Set in what could be ‘anywhere’ Jamaica, the story is of a young girl, the product of a shunned union who, through clever questioning and some unexpected happenstance, discovers the identity of her father and lifts the shame/curse that attended the women in her family before her.
The cast of characters include the familiar production ensemble of Naggo Morris who plays the simple but passionate and humorous Roy Perkins, grandfather, great-grandfather, deacon and husband. He is married to Louis Perkins, played uncannily by Marcia Brown, a committed grandmother, great-grandmother, maid and believer in God and a few spirits that she seeks to bind as part of the saga.
There is also Letna Allen who plays the ever condescending Mrs. Claire Bonavitch, a rich lawyer’s wife who has very low tolerance for those deemed beneath her.
The charm of the play, however, lie in the hands of the new faces, some of whom are very new to the stage and, especially, to this audience.
The incomparable and unforgettable Kayla McLaughlin plays Lisa, the 16-year-old determined to get answers to secrets held. Kayla is one to watch. Her line delivery and confidence allows her to hold her own amidst the veterans on stage and her role is integral to the audience’s relationship to the play. Her presence is impactful as early as her first scene.
There is also Kevin Davis who plays Mr. Jonathan Bonavitch Sr., the lawyer who experiences some emasculation from his wife and later rises to the occasion.
Kevin is new to the stage but you can hardly tell amidst his nuanced delivery.
Jason Brown who plays Jonathan Bonavitch Jr. is a consistent representative of a young man experiencing puppy love to a grown lawyer turned family redeemer.
Then there is Sheronia Taylor who plays Sarah Perkins, the source of the saga. She falls in love with one she cannot have, becomes pregnant by him and experiences the shame and liberties that often attends the single mother motif.
Sheronia (later understudy is Keisha Vernon) renders the docile and bashful Sarah particularly realistic and human.
For a story that on the surface appears to be addressing lost/missing/irresponsible/deadbeat fathers one must watch to see the real turn this depiction takes on this often sour point.
Marcia Brown (this is the first play she has written after 13 years on the Canadian theatre scene) manages to capture a number of relevant themes. Not only does she impress upon us that parents and, ideally, mother and father, are important for a child’s development and success, she reminds us that class prejudice has ripple effects on lives even for generations, and consistently pulls us back to a higher power or the recognition thereof being a mainstay for those in need, and that change can come amidst a certain familial trend. But, most importantly, she convinces the audience that “to err is human but to forgive is divine”. The very divine turn of events leaves us wanting more from this team.
“I Need to Know my Father” will be performed at the Jamaican Canadian Association’s Centre, 995 Arrow Road this Father’s Day weekend, June 17 to 19, and the following weekend (June 25) in Ajax (J Clarke Richardson Collegiate). On June 25, the production goes to Hamilton – at The Ukranian Church of the Resurrection.
Visit www.marciabrownproductions.com for more information or call (416) 843-8787.