Tue | Apr 7, 2020

‘Pit to Pulpit’: a worthy dramatic encounter

Published:Wednesday | November 20, 2019 | 12:29 AMMarcia Rowe/Gleaner Writer
Henry (Michael Nicholson) and Yanique (Karla Tulloch).
Henry (Michael Nicholson) and Yanique (Karla Tulloch).

In an imperfect world, life throws obstacles that unnerve and destroy the best ideals. Henry Jackson (Michael Nicholson), the central character in Mikhail Solomon’s surreal play, Pit to Pulpit, knows all too well about this.

Jackson, the son of a late pastor, is on the verge of taking up pastoral duties at his father’s church, but is haunted by his past, days before he is ordained. It comes in the form of a ghost, Yanique (Karla Tulloch), his late partner, who died tragically. This threatens not only Henry fulfilling his father’s desire, but his marriage. With steadfast praying by wife Yvonne (Rosie Murray) and daughter Heaven (Trishana Wright) and his deep faith, he triumphs.

Solomon’s play is loaded with mystery and suspense, while exploring the central theme of forgiveness. Forgive and be elevated to the figurative pulpit, or hold on to the aggrieve of the past and remain in the pit.

However, the gripping story, with its strong message, is marred by an overused setting – the Jacksons’ living/dining room. But fortune favours faith, and so in this case, the set of a sofa, etc, worked for the non-realistic-styled play.

good cast

Solomon, who also wore the hat of the director, did right in fully employing all the acting areas in his blocking. Having the cast interacting with the set in a meaningful way, with the appropriate stage business, was also a plus. Likewise, the seemingly well-thought-out different entrances of Yanique.

Pit to Pulpit is also a comedy, and actors Nicholson, Murray, David Tulloch, Wright, Toniann Johnson and Karla Tulloch showed they understood this. Each delivering punchlines and beats that evoked many laugh-out-loud moments.

Veterans Nicholson and Murray were outstanding as Henry and Yvonne. Nicholson showed the complexity of his role with aplomb. He carried the viewers through the torment and ultimate triumph of Henry with the skill of the fine actor that he his. Murray, who recently joined the cast, played Yvonne for the first time. She showed the class actress she is. Even in making the few errors, she impressively maintained the emotions of the religiously devoted Yvonne in beats, mannerisms and gestures.

Wright (Heaven Jackson), Karla Tulloch and Johnson (Jezerene Jackson-Mighty) also gave credence to their respective roles.

David Tulloch, as the eclectic Deacon Baten and the voice of reason, was entrusted with more than ordaining Henry. Baten was the main conduit of the comic relief, a role Tulloch seemed to have understood and enjoyed quite well. He convincingly coloured each utterance of lines and action appropriately.

The talented thespian was also responsible for set and lighting designs. But whereas he earned a mere pass for the set, he redeemed himself with the lights. The flashing lights and red-coloured gels amplified the mythical element of the production in a profound way.

Pit to Pulpit was staged at the Phoenix Theatre, Haining Road, St Andrew, on Sunday. Overall, it is well worth seeing.