If nothing else, Amy Merrill's so-called "reggae play" "Driving on the Left Side" proves that the throbbing heartbeat music that pulses out of Jamaica could resuscitate any show that washes up on the beach. But even allowing for the periodic infusions of life supplied by nifty onstage band Reggaelution, this romantic comedy is dead in the water.

If nothing else, Amy Merrill’s so-called “reggae play” “Driving on the Left Side” proves that the throbbing heartbeat music that pulses out of Jamaica could resuscitate any show that washes up on the beach. But even allowing for the periodic infusions of life supplied by nifty onstage band Reggaelution, this romantic comedy is dead in the water.

Plot of scribe’s escapist fantasy is not without appeal. An American schoolteacher left stranded at the altar in Buffalo, N.Y., impulsively goes on her Jamaican honeymoon alone and falls in love with the lead vocalist in a reggae beach band. They fool around and have some fun.

Complications arise when the bride’s concerned father arrives and promptly falls in love with the singer’s alluring mother. They fool around and have some fun.

With the sensory deprivations of a Buffalo winter awaiting them at home, both father and daughter, impulsive as always, decide to go native.

Given the palpitating rhythms emanating from Reggaelution, who could blame the heat-deprived Americans for being seduced by the warmth of the island and its attractive natives?

Postell Pringle isn’t mellow enough to be convincing as the reggae singer who calls himself Cowboy, but he knows how to work the charm, and his appeal to a jilted bride is entirely understandable.

While Sharon Tsahai King plays it much too broad as Cowboy’s earthy mother, Celia, there’s no doubt where Cowboy gets his sex appeal.

Design package smartly plays up the feeling of Jamaican warmth and good humor with crayon-color tones and bold patterns. (Carlo Adinolfi’s hot-pink walls and turquoise furnishings for Celia’s home are eye candy, although the set must be a bitch to haul in and out of position.)

But between the idiotic earnestness of Merrill’s dialogue and the stodgy direction of Florante Galvez, there is absolutely no reason that either Celia or Cowboy would have anything to do with those psychologically unstable Americans. An utterly humorless Jennifer McCabe plays the lovelorn bride, Serena, with the depressive intensity of a Strindberg heroine, while Paul Navarra takes a clownish approach to her working-class dad, George, that would make the cartoon characters in “King of the Hill” look away in embarrassment.

Throughout it all, the band plays on.

Driving on the Left Side

TBG Theater; 99 seats; $40 top

Production

A Blackbird Prods. presentation of a play in two acts by Amy Merrill. Directed by Florante Galvez.

Creative

Sets, Carlo Adinolfi; costumes, Ali Turns; lighting, Federico Restrepo; sound, Andrew Fremont Smith; production stage manager, Amy Lee. Opened June 30, 2005. Reviewed June 29. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.

Cast

Cowboy - Postell Pringle Serena - Jennifer McCabe George - Paul Navarra Celia - Sharon Tsahai King
With: Reggaelution
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