Lime Review - Theatre
One Monkey Don't Stop No Show
Jocelyn Jee Esien plays uptight socialite Myra
From one of the best black middle class families and who schedules her sex life with her preacher husband, Avery, around hair appointments and sorority meetings in Philadelphia.African American playwright Don Evans explores class division and its hilarious consequences when the Harrison family collides in its expectations and demeanour in 1970s America where keeping up appearances with white and black folk is an acute headache for the black middle class.
She confuses words in her pretentiousness - "pervert" is "prevert" - and impresses upon her son, Felix, to finish his dentistry training to ensure the family maintains its position.
The quivering of Jee's lips and body when she discovers that Felix has downgraded in his marriage choice to his loud and excitable Afro wearing lover, Lil Bits played by Michelle Asante, is one of the strong examples of physical comedy in this production.
Evan's play is scattered with the side-splitting one liners delivered with great aplomb: "I wish I was white so I could faint." But all of Myra's snobbery and haughty attitude unravels when she emerges - ravaged by her horny preacher husband- a hot mama with her wig and dressing gown in disarray.
Ayesha Antoine is refreshing as the sassy Southern niece Beverley who throws the family's life upside down in seeking out her new guardian Caleb Johnson. The 70s sitcom set design by Libby Watson, complete with taped applause, is delightful. What is missing from Evan's writing is some depth in the tensions of being a "bourgeois negro" as it often plays to stereotypes and familiar storylines - but that aside, it is an interesting marriage of political astuteness and street swagger.
Takeaway, Theatre Royal Stratford East