Eat ah Food review

Eat up, people are starving
Originally published in the Sunday Guardian for October 14, 2012.
Cecelia Salazar and Debra Boucaud Mason discuss men in the play Eat ah Food.
Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

Eat ah food
Written by Ricardo Samuel
Directed by Richard Ragoobarsingh

After a sleek projected credits sequence,
Eat ah food, a new local play at the Central Bank, quickly settled down to delivering what it promised in its advertising.
That was, as you might expect, scurrilous inferences, bacchanalian pronouncements and the kind of devious scheming that most folks imagine happens behind the heavy oaken doors of political activity and the equally hefty doors of the wealthy and privileged.

In the world of Ricardo Samuel’s play, the two are inextricably intertwined, mostly through crooked financial schemes and that old standby of the successful comedy, sex. Here it’s dirty and clandestine, just waiting to be discovered.
Eat ah food is a curious theatrical animal. For the whole of its first act, it indulges in everything it can muster that might be crowd pleasing.

Glen Davis, soon to be theatrically deceased and thereby become the key plot point for the production, walks through every door on the lushly decorated set nervously planning a naughty assignation with the agency.
His cameo comes to a sudden end with two offstage gunshots and he gets to go home, missing all the chaos that’s to come.

For the first half of the play, there’s all the broad posturing, screeching, wailing that you might expect, capped with the appearance of Security Minister Jackson Roberts (Nigel Auguste), sexpot supreme, armed with a very familiar speech impediment that immediately sent the audience into peals of laughter.

At the centre of all this madness, ably stirred by deaf, colour-blind and a mostly drunk household maid (Debra Boucaud Mason) and earnest Inspector Wilcox (Fabrice Barker), is Marlene Gopaul, widow, hornerwoman and the only person who seems to have a grasp on how anything works in this world.
Played by Cecelia Salazar, in what looked very much like a real cast and some very real grimace inducing pain, the character was a sedentary rock of sanity as hysteria swirled around.

Even if Ms Salazar seemed prone to reach for the low hanging titters with arch stares at the ceiling and moans of faux pleasure, her performance was the only one that didn’t seem to depend on a sliding scale of misplaced sanity to seduce the audience’s attention.
The distractions in this first salvo of the production are quite familiar. Comment with overblown satire on current affairs, the fresher the better, use first names that crop up in the news often and offer scandalous rationales for puzzling acts of public policy.

Section 34 becomes an addendum to the Kamasutra, the media are a constant irritation and people begin dropping dead everywhere. When there’s this much cocoa being danced in the sun, what else must be happening in the dark corners of the shed?
Amid this turbulence, Salazar’s Marlene Gopaul is the bacchanal voice of our worst speculations, offering the real reasons we all suspect for what’s happening in Trinidad and Tobago after swilling that fifth ill-advised glass of wine.
Armed with such perspectives and a quiver full of pithy political barbs, the plot lurches along. It’s a sex comedy. It’s a political satire. It’s a farce of mistaken identity.

And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the second act of the play rolls around and while the theatrical vehicle that rolls onstage looks the same, with the same trim and passengers, but it soon becomes clear that the engine’s been ripped out and completely replaced.
After that long 20 minute intermission, Eat ah food has suddenly and surprisingly become a whodunit, complete with a living room showdown that gathers all the suspects and the inputs of two formerly dead characters into the type of denouement that has never happened in any actual criminal investigation, not even when Sherlock Holmes first introduced the form.

In one sudden rocket swift shift, we’ve left behind Yes, Minister to visit Clue and Marlene Gopaul and her affairs take a firm but brisk backseat to who did what to whom, where.
It’s now Fabrice Barker’s show as everyone sits down to petulantly deny his boldly declarative proof that they’re guilty, guilty, guilty.
He’s also got the best line of the play, declaring to the cowed suspects: “Someone is going down for this murder. Someone, some two or some three.”

In the end, it’s just one, but everyone onstage is guilty of something. Is this the production’s final message? Or is it that pointing fingers is really rude?
It’s hard to say, because Eat ah food never settles down to deal with anything other than issues torn from the headlines, a perspective on crime that’s comforting to the middle-class and sex, drugs and murder.

There’s probably a good play lurking around in here on just those subjects, particularly the sex drugs and murder bits, and while it occasionally peeks out from behind the hefty furniture from Fens of Marabella, but this isn’t it.
This is a farcical confection meant to make you smile and kill some time one evening, and hopefully the performers, who all hobbled through it in one way or another, will get their turn at the table.
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