Choo Kong and First Instinct kick off 2015 with “Party Done For The Freak Next Door”

Thursday 26th February 2015; the Queen’s Hall opening of “PARTY DØNE for the FREAK NEXT DOOR”. Raymond Choo Kong Productions and First Instinct have teamed up once again, promising a “Comedy with TESTICULAR FORTITUDE!!!” and I ventured out into the unexpected dry season rain, to witness “a Choo Kong play” for the very first time. The “Mary Could Dance” director lives up to his name, directing and writing yet another ‘Adults Only!’ sex comedy that just might prove successful at the box office, despite the not-so-catchy production title. Although “testicular fortitude” may be an oversight, the play is full of laughs and worth watching after a hard day’s work.

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 The story, a tragicomedy surrounding a murder, entails the works; sex, scandal and the “Trini sourness”. Alan (Trevon C. Jugmohan); the only son of Barry (Raymond Choo Kong)  and Janice (Cecelia Salazar), is suspected of killing his girlfriend and is pursued by Inspector Curtis (Kevon Brooks) who won’t give up in trying to extort  a confession. Janice’s friends, Pauline (Caroline Taylor) and Ron (Arnold Goindhan), are there to lend a hand in this difficult time, with Ron lending Janice more than a hand, if you know what I mean. The “party done” in more ways than one.

Shall we talk “tech”? Set in modern times, Ganesh Ramlal’s scenic design and construction was well executed and used the space efficiently with the actors in mind. However, there was an image projected on the scrim at the centre of the back wall for the majority of the play that seemed useless. Perhaps it may have had some significance but it was never revealed in the play. The stage was well lit by Celia Wells but sometimes the intensity could’ve changed to enhance the mood, particularly in the last scene of the play where it got a bit heavy.

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From the left: Trevon Jugmohan, Caroline Taylor, Cecilia Salazar, Kevon Brooks, Raymond Choo Kong and Arnold Goindhan

Written with “punching the punch lines” in mind, generally, the acting fell into the same rut, lying in wait to hit the next punch line. There was a lot of fodder in between the important scenes, for example, the scene with Ron and Pauline that was drawn out and involved too much pacing in the second half. If you’re going to “hit the punch lines” then it’s best to keep the play short and sweet. The bridge between the genres of comedy and tragedy might’ve been an attempt for Choo Kong to try his hand at more serious work under the pretext of a comedy to still generate mass appeal. If this was the goal then both the director and the actors needed to work together to keep the play grounded in the reality, despite the occasional comedic moments. However the play evoked a good spirit in the audience who repeated the play’s catchy phrases, even throwing in their own “two cents” during the production.

Acting wise, certain things were overdone. The Inspector; Kevon Brooks, constantly tried to garner a laugh by repeatedly hitting Alan; Trevon C. Jugmohan, when there seemed to be no impetus. Pauline; Caroline Taylor, got a bit too dramatic, was at a loss for what to do with her hands and didn’t transition well from” innocent wife” to “schemer” in the second half. Alan’s unresponsiveness to anything or anyone was never justified. Even if he had accepted his fate, the character still lacked depth. Janice; Cecelia Salazar, and Ron; Arnold Goindhan needed a bit more chemistry to really be convincing as lovers. Both Barry; Raymond Choo Kong and Alan; Trevon C. Jugmohan were somewhat disconnected from Janice; Cecelia Salazar throughout the play that made the scripted ending more of a convention than a reality. The saving grace, however, was Choo Kong’s “bad mouth” which was missed in the second half where things started to slow down and dead air took over. At one point the stage was left empty for no reason at all. However, in keeping with “giving Jack his jacket”, they all meshed well together as a cast to produce a cohesive whole.

If you’re looking to unwind or for an inside joke between you and the boyfriend, then this bittersweet comedy is just for you. Support local and reserve your tickets at the box office for  “PARTY DØNE for the FREAK NEXT DOOR which continues from Thursday 5th March to Sunday 8th March at Cipriani Labour College. For tickets and more information, call 477-0772 or 384-8663.

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