Marriage, it’s up and downs, fidelity and infidelity is a theme many theater lovers in Nairobi will confess is a tad too common in the local theaters. Yet John Kami dares write us another script on the very topic. We are quite tempted to tell him as much but change our minds instantly upon watching his latest play For Better or Worse that has been showing at the Phoenix Theater this past week. Kami silences us by the interesting and very fresh perspective he gives to marriage.
The play tells the tale of the marriage of Mr Frank Juma (John Kinywa) and his wife Norma(Veronica Waceke) whose union, having run out of love, is held loosely in place by the children they have. Each spouse feels they have lost their partner but none can tell exactly when real love exited and left a painful routine of marital roles just like Elvis Presley sang in ‘I’ve Lost You’.
Jacob Otieno, the director, obviously did a great job of piecing the fragments of the past to the patches of present and we, the audience are taken on a bumpy back and forth trip smoothly, almost imperceptibly.
Even so, as the play unfolds, one gets the impression that the scriptwriter fell into the old stereotypical trap that portrays the woman as a devoted, happiness-sacrificing partner who cares too much whereas the husband is a reckless cheating drunk with miniature moral bearing and very little care.
One is tempted, as the play progresses, to rename the play ‘For Worse or Worse’, for the marriage seems never to see a day of peace or laughter. The ice just never thaws. And the husband, sickened and wanting out, firmly informs his wife that ‘the only grounds for divorce if the fact that one is married.’
The cast Joe Kinywa and Veronica Waceke outdo themselves with their fine and seasoned acting during the hour and a half that keeps the audience on the edges of their plush seats. The actor’s well-coordinated, lithe and purposeful movements demonstrate a well rehearsed play.
The set, homely and simple, is sadly, the only cozy thing in that home. Even as the lady of the home labors to dust and clean, we’re struck with a terrible understanding that the marriage is, and will possibly remain, full of the dust of suspicion.
The script, I have to say, is very well-written and we are constantly fed on terribly witty and bitingly funny one-liners that come to us fast, comical and clever every minute by the couple who are sick of the truth and sick of the lies that bind them together.
Much as the unpredictability of the play keeps us, the audience, at our nerves ends, it nonetheless stretches the conflict for too long without a foreseeable antidote and we get somewhat disheartened, wallowing in palpable pessimism.
Even though we truly hope for a happy ending, the tale moves towards what, one might call, a too easy, too obvious or too cowardly suicidal conclusion.
In the end, to say that the play was very good may be a bit misleading, for it is a notch higher. And I cannot help feeling that I could gladly watch it again and again and again.