December 15, 2019

CDS latest production is “Sistahs”

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Colin Wilson

I was invited along with other members of the media last Thursday to a rehearsal of the play “Sistahs” at The Prospect Playhouse.

Billed by the Cayman Drama Society as a comedy ,“You’ll laugh until you cry”, I was expecting something like “Rundown” or as it is the Playhouse is the Theatre for Brits – a farce.

If you go to see this play thinking that, you will be disappointed. It is not a sidesplitting, frolicking 90 minutes of laughter.

Yes, there is comedy, as there is in most people’s but there is sadness, problems, and anger mixed in with the laughter.

On the website of one of the authors’ – Sharon M Lewis (the co-author is maxine bailey) Lewis explains in depth exactly what the play is about:

The act – and sometimes the art – of dining defines community. Breaking bread establishes a group, bringing people together to share and essential physical and, at some level, spiritual celebration of humanity and its need to come together.

But eating is only half of the equation, one part of a diptych painting hinged with its companion piece, the act – and art – of preparing the meal. If the importance of a food preparation is undervalued, one reason might be the fact that it’s done my women’s hands.

Sistahs, a new play by maxine bailey and Sharon M. Lewis, aims to give kitchen work its due.

The play brings together five powerful women for the communal preparation of a meal, but the situation in this Toronto home is a charged one. Sandra, the organizer, has cancer and is concerned about setting up a supportive family to care for her teenage daughter Assata. This nontraditional family includes her lover Dehlia, her half-sister Rea and her friend Cerise.

The two authors – each debuting as a playwright – recognize that Sistahs speaks to a wide reality. Though all five characters can be called black, they each come from a different culture – Jamaican, Trinidadian, African Canadian, East Asian and combinations in between.

The coming together of the five characters parallels the creation of the soup that’s the focus of their meeting – seasoned by various viewpoints, backgrounds and memories, the result is a flavourful, tantalizing and filling meal.

When bailey came up with the title, in fact, Lewis didn’t immediately accept its varied meanings. “We went through an exercise discussing what we each thought the play to be about,” says bailey with a knowing smile. “For me, it’s about acceptance, that I could create my own family, one not necessarily based on blood ties. Sharon is my sister – I trust her with my child. That’s what family is about.”

“And I thought of a sister as a member of my blood family, with further political ramifications about empowerment for blacks through acknowledgment of rights and a past,” admits Lewis. “I came to understand the importance of the play’s title only when I realized the importance of choosing my own sisters.”

And what did I think of the play?

I enjoyed it. All the time I was watching the story unfold I thought of the Cat Stevens song “Father and Son” even though this was and Daughter.

The difference was the sibling was not making her own choice in leaving her mother – it was being forced upon her by the terminal illness of her single parent.

I asked the play’s director, Paul de Freitas why he chose “Sistahs” and he said he always wanted to direct a Caribbean play at The Playhouse. “This is the Cayman Islands and we are in the Caribbean,” he said.

He found the play by searching the Internet and liked the concept. He sent for the script and along with his wife, Fay Anne (who is the Producer), they both read it, loved it and vowed to stage it.

Two and a half years later “Sistahs “ has come to life on The Prospect Playhouse stage.

The set is simple, kitchen/diner occupies one half and a sitting room the other half. Most of the action takes place in the kitchen/diner where the soup is on the boil and everyone is putting in their ingredients, although there is some apprehension about the addition of plantain.

The acting by the five performers, Wendee Miller (Sandra), Katherine Erskine (Assata), Juliet Garricks (Dehlia), Rita Estevanovich (Cerise) and Kayla Manderson (Rea) is excellent. All played their parts to perfection – and you must remember I an critiquing a rehearsal with another week to go.

I have directed many plays and seldom, none of mine, have ever been this good at this stage. In fact the difference normally between the rehearsal before the dress and the dress itself is (on a scale of 1 to 10) 5, 7 and 10 (opening night).

What I saw last week could easily have been the opening night. When you see it the actors will get additional feedback from you the audience and their pace and response will be even better.

I promise you, you will be in for a cracking show that will leave you thinking and remembering the story for a long time.

My favourite character was the mother, Sandra. A very difficult role. She was bullying her daughter, Assata, worrying about what was going to happen to her when she died, having bouts of acute pain, getting into a fight and hitting Assata, being full of remorse for it, and crying out her love for her only child. Wendee Miller was superb. She is a very experienced and talented actor who has been performing from the age of 6. She said “Performing Arts is my greatest love”. It showed. I last saw her in “Joseph and the Multicoloured Dream Coat” and before that in “Rundown”.

Juliet Garricks and Rita Estevanovich are very well known to me and to Cayman’s theatre audiences both at The Playhouse and The CNCF’s National Theatre. You don’t need me to tell you how talented they both are.

Kayla Manderson is a newcomer but no less talented for that. She held her own and her role was difficult because she had to play it with a Trinidad accent.
Last, but not least, is 15 year old Katherine Erskine with the co-lead role of the daughter Assata. Her bio given to me is very impressive and she not only can act very well but plays the guitar and dances. She is also President of The Toastmaster Club at Clifton Hunter.

“Sistahs” Performances are at the Prospect Playhouse on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 7th September to 23rd September, doors open at 6.30pm with Curtain at 7.30pm.

Tickets for all performances are CI$25 for Adults and CI$15 for Students/Children. *This show has a PG-13 rating*

Go to http://www..ky to book your tickets on their new website.

Do not miss it.

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