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A Glorious "Hello" to Jamaica Farewell
Empire Stage, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Also see Jeffrey's review of Mothers and Sons and What's New Pussycat?


Deborah Ehrhardt
Empire Stage producer David Gordon has a hit in Jamaica Farewell, Deborah Ehrhardt's autobiographical, one-woman play. Ehrhardt, a beautiful Jamaican woman, recounts in a swift-moving 85 minutes, how she realized her dream of getting out of politically explosive Jamaica.

Starting as a precocious 8 year old, little Debbie dreams of only one thing: escaping the life to which she seems destined. With the encouragement of her loving mother, she never gives up the hope.

To give away the rest of the story would entail a plethora of "spoilers". Suffice to say that her journey is so unpredictable and unbelievable, I am still in awe of just how she ultimately pulled it off. In truth, I felt at times I was being manipulated a la television "movie of the week" and then I snapped out of it and realized that I was living Debbie's reality and that it all had actually happened.

Ehrhardt plays all of the roles in her saga, from her alcoholic dad, to the "red-eyed, dreadlocked Lucifer" who is her biggest threat, to Jack, with whom she dreams of the ultimate life with in the U.S.A.

The Empire Stage is an intimate 70-seat theatre and Ms. Ehrhardt, along with beautifully nuanced lighting by Preston Bircher, and impressive sound design by her son, Danny Ehrhardt, manage to fill the room with voluminous love and humor. Seldom have I heard a capacity audience get as involved as they did at last night's opening. Major credit must also be given to the brilliant direction of Joel Zwick. If that name sounds familiar, he also directed a little film called My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Congratulations to Mr. Zwick for undertaking what is so obviously a labor of love. I read that Jamaica Farewell is being turned into a film. I hope that they capture the empathy and love the audience felt for Deborah (I feel like I have known her all of my life, such is the warmth and gravitas of Ms. Ehrhardt.)

As I mentioned earlier, I do not want to reveal the twists and turns that Deborah had to endure on her journey. Take the journey with her. It will be a trip, like the first time you saw Paris, that you will remember and talk about for years.

Jamaica Farewell plays until October 19. Empire Stage Theatre, 1140 No. Flagler Dr. Ft. Lauderdale, FL. 33304 Phone: 954-678-1496

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- Jeffrey Bruce

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