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Ladies of the Night - A Hilarious Romp With a Dash of Drama

(l-r) Sharee McDonald-Russell, Keisha Patterson, Camille Davis & Courtney Wilson

Patrick Brown’s Ladies of the Night, currently playing at The Centre Stage Theatre, New Kingston, is a hilarious romp sprinkled with a touch of seriousness, but never enough to disrupt the vibrant humour which drives the play. This is the play’s strongest element, but it also makes you long to see a richer dramatic work from the self-assured writer, whose adeptness as a director is also growing.

Ladies of the Night boasts a talented cast who can handle dramatically complex work as well as comedy. However, while recognizing the seriousness of the matters the play skirts around and flirts with, Brown trades off most of the dramatic potential for a few (or in truth more than a few) good laughs. But of course, by the end of the play, you are probably laughing so hard, you won’t hold it against him.
Ladies of the Night shows more of Honey (front), Sugar, Juicy and Cherry than their life on the street
Ladies of the Night follows the lives of Sugar, Honey, Cherry and Juicy, four prostitutes who try to balance their own tenuous relationships, boyfriends and the demands of the job.  Their names evoke sweetness, but their lives are far from it. The characters are vibrant with a hint of complexity.

Juicy (Camille Davis) is the outsider and most ostracized of the women. Unlike the other three, she hails from extreme poverty, has bad hygiene and is illiterate. She is, however, the only one in a committed relationship.

Sugar (Keisha Patterson) is the most naive of the four women. Despite her profession, and it isn’t quite clear why she has chosen the path, she has a penchant for creating emotional attachments with unsuitable men.

Honey (Sakina Deer) is the least sweet of the women. She is covered in bitterness from a traumatic encounter with a client which left her physically scarred as well as burdened by a secret which causes her to lash out at others.

Cherry (Sharee McDonald-Russell) is the glue Glen Campbell (Carlos) and Keisha Patterson (Sugar)that sticks this otherwise unlikely group together. Wary of men because of the string of hurricane lovers from her past who have left her emotionally battered,  Cherry is adamant that the women can hold their own and survive as long as they are united.

Davis, Patterson, Deer and McDonald-Russell all provide strong performances. Additionally, although Ladies of the Night is not a musical, it has a musical element, the latter three possess strong voices, which though a minor element of the production, was also enjoyable.

Ladies of the Night features a strong cast able to handle its dramatic elementsThe cast is completed by Glen Campbell as Carlos and Courtney Wilson as Scatta. Campbell’s performance is steady and with Scatta, a lisp-laden “handcart bwoi”, Wilson is once again given a role that he can handle with assurance.

Ladies of the Night is co-directed by Brown and Trevor Nairne, who is also the show’s designer. The two make a good team, presenting a strong work that speaks of their years of experience.

The set is less conceptually ambitious than those which have graced the Jambiz stage in the past few productions, but it sufficiently meets the needs of the piece.

Sakina DeerWhat Ladies of the Night lacks, is the pathos of the film Hustle and Flow, a piece with which it bears some similarity. Ladies, can’t be accused of being too frivolous. It takes its issues of AIDS and prostitution seriously, but it takes the need to be commercially viable even more so, and this is the trade off. Having successfully staged Charlie’s Angels (2011) and Yard 2012 (2012) the space Jambiz International, the show’s producers, once left for its more dramatic work has now been usurped by comedy.  But then, such is the relentless pursuit of butter, and we all need it, to make our bread more palatable.

Yet, even while admiring the hilarity of this Jamaican play, I cannot help but feel, that Brown has sold his pen a little too cheaply.