When one sees the name Hershey Felder connected to a production, one can safely assume that they are in for something special. While most of his works, one person shows, are musical in nature, the current production, now on the stage of The Royal George Theatre, “Jamaica Farewell” is not, but who cares? The play (90 uninterrupted minutes) is the playwright’s story of her escape from revolution-torn Jamaica. Written by and starring Debra Ehrhardt and skillfully directed by Joel Zwick (who brought “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” to film), this is a story, that while filled with topics that can be scary, is filled with laughter and glee.
Ms Ehrhardt, from the time she was a small girl, dreamt of leaving her home to live in America. We learn through her stories that while she was deprived of doing so, she never gave up this dream and as the story unfolds, we find her meeting a CIA agent, an American, who makes her feel that she can make her lifelong dream come true. We meet her parents, her employer, her friends, her lover, all brought to life by her and her strong presentation. Many of those in the opening night audience knew very little about Jamaica and its people prior to watching this story being told. I , for one, was unaware that the government was indeed “in bed with Castro” and that the people of the country were either rich or poor.
MsEhrhardt is a highly energetic, strong talent, who keeps the audience into her story from start to finish. When she starts the show. she explains how as a little girl she had the “American Dream”, and even though she is far from being a child, one can see the childlike qualities that she brings to her story. We watch her age during this 90 minutes, but even knowing that she is far past these years of yesterday, one forgets that and feels as if they are watching the story unfold as it did. She is a masterful story teller. Leave it to Felder to find talent that is of his ilk. Perfection personified!
As we learn, transferring dollars from Jamaica out of the country was a violation of the law and punishable by prison. Our Ms. Ehrhardt, in order to see her dream become a reality, had to endure a very risky and dangerous mission of bringing a great deal of money to America- this is a major part of the story. But while the story is powerful in itself, it is the way it is told that I am sure caught the eye of Felder, a man who truly knows art when he sees it and recognized the value of her story and how audiences would react. FYI He is bringing a number of shows to The Royal George this season as a reminder of the experiences he has had for over ten years in this venue.
The Royal George Theatre is a smaller venue where every seat is good and the audience, even in the balcony, is close to the stage.When the show first was seen in Chicago, it was at a much smaller, venue, The Chopin in Wicker Park. The show deserved a better venue with a better stage and better sight lines. Thanks to Mr. Felder and company, it has found the perfect home. The scenic design for this show was done by Felder himself, with lighting by Richard Norwood, sound by Erik Carstensen and projections by Mariya Tatarintseva. Felder understands the team concept in his shows, and despite one actor being on the stage, knows that it “takes a village”. Every show that he has brought to this theater has been ideal for the stage and the Chicago audiences who show up for the quality that he presents. While this show may not appeal to everyone, it is a wonderful theatrical experience that will educate as well as entertain.
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
You can learn more about the entire season that Felder is bringing to The Royal George by visiting www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com where you can buy the series and save money using codes:
“Duet” and save $5 per ticket on the second show
“Trio” buy three shows, save $10 per ticket on 2nd and 3rd
buy all four shows and use “quartet”, save $15 on each ticket for the 2nd,3rd and 4th shows.
Valet and street parking is available. Also, if you dine at Marcello’s on North Avenue (about two blocks East of Halsted), you can take a brisk walk to the theater and go back for your coffee after the show.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Jamaica Farewell”