Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Chicago

Jamaica Farewell
Chopin Theatre

Also see John's reviews of Timon of Athens and The Iceman Cometh

Debra Ehrhardt
Debra Ehrhardt's one-woman show, which was an award winner in New York's 2007 Fringe Festival and has been touring the country since, takes a little while to get going but ends up being a fun ride. The 85-minute show opens with some charming but unexceptional anecdotes of Ms. Ehrhardt's childhood, setting up her lifelong fascination with the United States. The child of an apparently charming but inveterate gambling-drinking father and a patient, saintly mother, the family didn't have the means to travel and, as she entered her late teens during the 1970s, emigration became increasingly difficult for Jamaicans. This is all a long set-up to what turns into a quite entertaining caper story.

The 18-year-old Ehrhardt gets her chance when she accidentally and simultaneously meets two different men who can help her realize her dream of coming to America. One is a CIA agent, the other a shady businessman who hires her to smuggle one million dollars from Jamaica into the U.S. She has to drive from Kingston to Montego Bay to meet up with the CIA agent, but what should have been an uneventful four-to-five hour trip across the island turns into a harrowing journey after a flat tire in a small rural town.

Ehrhardt tells the tale of her wild trip to the airport with expert pacing, creates multiple characters, and helps us visualize the settings. Program notes say the play—which was performed at Garry Marshall's Falcon Theatre in L.A. last fall—has been optioned for a feature film treatment. It's not hard to visualize the story as a film while listening and watching Ehrhardt's retelling of it. She's marvelously kinetic and visual, with a keen sense of timing that even suggests the film editing. Her performance here is directed by Joel Zwick, who, as the director of the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding and all of Hershey Felder's one-man plays, knows both movies and live solo performance. He helps her make an exotic story with a set of only a few trunks on stage as a set.

The attractive and athletic Ehrhardt performs her show with an energy and verve that belie the many times she's done this for an audience. It's a short but enjoyable show that passes even faster than its 85 minutes would suggest, due to Ms. Ehrhardt's likable presence.

Jamaica Farewell will play the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division Street, Chicago, through May 27, 2012. For tickets, visit or call 800-838-3006.

Photo: Aaron Levine

See the schedule of theatre productions in the Chicago area

-- John Olson

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