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Two Can Play - Fairly Well Played

Rosie Murray (Gloria) and Paul Skeen (Jim) in the Trevor Rhone's Two Can Play

I approached Two Can Play, currently running at The Pantry Playhouse, New Kingston, with more than a hint of trepidation. The radio advertising had promised over-acting and raunchy miss-direction. Yet, what was actually presented on the stage was a fairly well-played of a classic Jamaican play that made for an enjoyable evening at the theatre.

The current incarnation of Trevor Rhone’s Two Can Play is produced by Goddess Theatre and ably directed by Carolyn Allen. The two-hander features Rosie Murray (Gloria) and Paul Skeen (Jim), two veterans of the stage.  

Two Can Play, one of Rhone’s classic pieces, combines a relationship drama with insight into the wider society, particularly the tumultuous 1970s. In true Rhone style it is infused with comedy even while shining a sharp and critical light at the society. In this case that light is cast upon the violence that ripped Jamaica apart and forced families separate from home and homeland.

Jim retells the terror of trying to bury his father under a hail of bulletsBut at its heart is the relationship between Gloria and Jim a long-married couple who after the death of Jim’s father and the migration of their three children are alone together for the first time in years. Though not quite a raunchy play, Two Can Play explores sex and sexuality, especially the value of sexual satisfaction as an important part of a healthy marriage.

Gloria is a long-suffering, strong, supportive woman who has put the needs of her family far above her own. The result is that she often defers to Jim’s demands, even when they are ridiculous and makes no complaints when he belittles her. Jim is a terrible husband, and not merely because he is unfaithful. He is inconsiderate, self-involved, belittling and lies to himself about his own prowess in all things. He is more swollen-up than an attacked pufferfish. There relationship changes when Gloria finally learns that she does not have to put up with Jim inconsiderateness.

Murray, after a protracted absence appears to be back on the stage with a vengeance, as this is her second production for the year. She delivers well as Gloria providing an engaging performance. Skeen plays well against her, although his portrayal of Jim, makes the character seem a little too old.

Allen provides sure-handed direction which allows the nuances of the play to come out. However, the production is neither as funny nor as dramatic as it could be, though its comedic element is more prevalent.

The play takes place in the bedroom and living room of Jim and Gloria’s downtown home. The set is generally good, adequately evoking both the style of the house as well as the era. However, there are some elements of the set dressing and the costuming Jim (Paul Skeen) and Gloria (Rosie Murray) are often at oddsthat are incongruous with the period.

At the end of the day, Goddess Theatre’s rendition of Two Can Play is watchable. So, if you’ve been avoiding it because the adverts suggest raunchy mindlessness coupled with bad acting, never mind that. It’s a good evening of theatre.