Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jamaica, Farewell by Debra Ehrhardt

Call. Make your reservation. Get to the Santa Monica Playhouse and see the enchanting one woman show “Jamaica Farewell” written by and starring Debra Ehrhardt.

There is no set, just a black box, a podium and two apple boxes warmed up by the Jamaican music softly playing in rhythm like shallow waves on white sandy beaches and rustling petals on beautiful flowers. It sounds like something you want to get to but in this production the heroine has other plans.

And so it goes that Ehrhardt enters slowly treating us to life on Jamaica. Painting a picture so unique she takes on color and slowly surrounds the stage with the vibrant Jamaican characters of her youth.

Debra’s only dream was to go to American and as dreams often do it becomes an overriding force in her life. Never losing sight of the ultimate goal, America, a land where there are "Baby Ruth’s as far as the eye can see". And "café mocha's with everything on it" are on every corner.

But life has a way of laying extreme obstacles in the most expected places. I mean, it’s Jamaica man.
First as young girl in a private school, her dreams suddenly come crashing down when her alcoholic gambling father loses their home and their furniture. This action sends Debra and her religious mother into a life of poverty. Her mother, clinging to religious convictions, becomes the cornerstone of Debra’s life.

In a never ending quest to leave the island, Debra tries to depart to study nursing abroad only to have her dream unrealized when they reject her for being too poor. So she sort of takes a vow of poverty, dresses in nuns garb (sewn by her mother) and tries to flee only to be rejected again.

The play takes a 360 degree turn dealing with the description of political unrest on the island. With assasinations here and there Debra manages to stay alive during the fracas until she finds an American with which to pursue her dream only to find he's CIA. No matter, she's young, attractive, and an opportunist to boot.

With eyes and ears wide open Debra manages to listen in on her bosses conversation about "getting a million dollars out of the country" and with the CIA agent as her friend she convinces her boss that if he can "get her a visa" she might be able to pull this one off.

A dream can sometimes hit a roadblock with so much complexity and unendurable conflict as to stop the strong of heart dead in their tracks and so it happens with Debra. Will she live her dream or spend 20 years in prison?

The director, Francis Megahy, manages to take us on a roller coaster ride until we are engulfed in the story and brought to a point that we let out a collective cheer when Debra achieves the dream of her life.

Hollywood is made up of the dreamers and the visualists reaching, struggling, and pursuing that which may be unreachable. When "it" happens it's a beautiful thing. The sold out house got "it" this night. They stood, they clapped and they jumped up and down for an exciting exhilarating ride, and a breathtaking view of the Island of Jamaica.

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