Jamaica: What Brews Behind Paradise

Do you know what you want? No, really, do you know what you want? And do you know how far you would go to get it? In this dynamic and engaging solo performance, writer/performer Debra Ehrhardt dramatizes her personal journey to fulfill her lifelong desire. Ms. Ehrhardt, a Jamaican, is drawn to the allure of America. The myths that American streets are paved with gold and that anyone can achieve anything here were commonly held beliefs internationally, especially in the 1970s. The lengths she went to in order to arrive on US soil will leave you questioning whether or not you are using your American status to its fullest potential while simultaneously offering a glimpse into the humor, humanity and spirit that exists in the Jamaica behind paradise. Ms. Ehrhardt’s dreams of America were dashed numerous times despite her efforts. As the political situation grows more tumultuous in Jamaica, she feels more stuck. And then, one day, she meets a man whom she believes will be her ticket out of the country. The roller coaster ride that ensues is better left as a surprise for the audience. But I can tell you it involves running for her life, the CIA, prostitutes, and lots of money. The twists and turns are almost unbelievable, especially as you remind yourself that this is a true story.

As a performer, Ms. Ehrhardt aptly transforms into different characters’ bodies and voices. We are in trustworthy hands as she takes us through moments of deep compassion, heavy fear, and youthful delight. Equally adept as a writer, she knows how to command rapt attention through suspense and jarring juxtapositions. With the assistance of simple, yet effective staging by Monique Lai, Ehrhardt offers an experience that attunes the audience to the power of personal storytelling.

I recommend this piece to all theatergoers who love a great story laden with love and despair, courage and weakness, failure and success. I also recommend this piece to Jamaican New Yorkers (of which I am one) who will revel in hearing names like Roxanne, Debbie Ann & Charmaine, phrases such as “kiss mi neck” and other markers of Jamaican-ness.

At the end of the piece, Ms. Ehrhardt returns to a simple choice that she is trying to make. She opts for grandeur and adventure, which, as you will learn, is deeply rooted in her nature.

Note: This production is part of the 2007 NYC International Fringe Festival.

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