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God's Way 2 - Travels the Conventional Path

Carl Samuels (Carlton) and Nadean Rawlins (Kayla)

While it isn’t quite true that sequels are never as good as the original, it is a good rule of thumb and DMH Production’s God’s Way2: Carlton’s Redemption is no exception.  Whereas God’s Way (2011) was a refreshing exploration of contemporary Christianity, God’s Way 2: Carlton’s Redemption seems more hampered by its insistence on being a Gospel play and is more willing to pander to Christian conventions and sacrifices some of its dramatic integrity to do so.

God’s Way 2 picks up five years after God’s Way leaves off. Carlton (played by Carl Samuels) has returned home after his stint in prison and he and Valerie (Dahlia Harris) are living in squalor on the little income she can afford. Their marriage is in an extremely rocky place as the two are filled with great resentment for each other. The situation get’s more complicated when Carlton’s former mistress Kayla (Nadean Rawlins) shows up and attempts to lure Carlton back into his pass.

Valerie (Dahlia Harris) and Deacon (Ainsley White) hide from bulletsThe plot is sufficiently interesting and the drama is balanced with hearty helpings of humour, usually brought on by Deacon (Ainsely White) who plays provides both comic relief and a moral/Christian centre for the play.

Harris has gathered a great cast for this production and they deliver strong performances each actor in this four-hander able carry carry his or her weight. White remains  one of the strongest characters and he reprises this role with ease. One isn’t always sure why Deacon is as involved as he is, you’re usually glad he’s there.

Harris also delivers well in this performance, but here her character is not as interesting as the first time we meet Valerie, and therefore the delivery is not as striking. New comers to the production Rawlins and Samuels are good additions to the plays dramatic content, as both deliver solid performances.

This appears to be Samuels’ year as he establishes himself as a serious actor on the theatre landscape. He delivered a wonderful performance in Ruined and was simultaneously dastardly and delightful in Gold Rush. His performance here is solid, but he fails to capture some of the emotional nuance, and I never fully understand some of Carlton’s motivation. This seems a result of a congregation of failures from the writer, actor and director.Carlton (Carl Samuels)

Unfortunately, the technical aspects of God’s Way 2 leave much to be desired. A large part of the trial of staging theatre in Jamaica, is the battle for legitimate spaces in which to do so. Stephanie Hall isn’t the best space for a play. Nonetheless the drama which unfolds is sufficiently engaging to pull you in, even though the set is a little too far back, making the distance between audience and actors even greater.

The set suffers from poor design, and unimaginative lighting does nothing to improve the overall aesthetics. In truth, DMH productions have paid little heed to the value of lighting in enhancing the story. DMH usually gets away with substandard technical aspects (although their sets are not usually this bad) because Harris creates such interesting dramas and uses such strong casts that they pull you into the story any way.

However, despite where the play succeeds, Harris (as writer) allows the play to remain ordinary rather than spectacular by not challenging any of the conventions. When Valerie laments the weight of forgiveness, you think that it will go there, but the writer betrays the character, by forcing her to be unquestioningly forgiving anyway.

Valerie (Dahlia Harris) and Carlton (Carl Samuels)God’s Way 2 stresses the need for Valerie to be a dutiful wife, and never explores what it means to be a dutiful husband. In light of Carlton’s waywardness this is problematic and in truth we are never allowed to see anything that is so great about Carlton to explain why she should stay with him. Worse yet, all his major decisions about his relationships are made by the women in his life. So, the play relieves Carlton of true culpability by laying most of the blame on the Jezebel figure, Kayla. This is disappointing as it is time that we stopped blaming man’s fall on the wayward woman be it Eve, Jezebel, or Delilah.

It is not enough to forgive Harris for this sin because God’s Way 2 is a Gospel play. One of theatre’s major roles is to allow us to face ourselves and ask disturbing questions about who we are and why we are that way. This is as important for the Christian community as the rest of the island. So while God’s Way 2 is certainly entertaining and the performances were engaging, its failure to question, to raise dialogue makes it somewhat disappointing. The play choses to travel the conventional path, and ignore the road less travelled. It therefore follows in the path of most sequels and fails to be as striking as the original.