Nishanti Bailey captures Chain’s raw emotion
When a parent has exhausted all reasonable avenues in a desperate effort to save their child's life, all that's left are unspeakable measures.
That's the premise behind Pearl Cleage's brilliant one woman play Chain, which is based on the true story of the Marrero family.
After two years of desperately seeking government assistance with their 15-year-old daughter Linda, who had dropped out of school after the sixth grade and become deeply embroiled in the dangerous, drug-laden Bronx night scene, Eliezer and Maria Marrero purchased an eight-foot chain and two locks, and chained their out-of-control teen to a metal radiator inside their apartment every night for two months.
Described by neighbours, witnesses, and authorities as everything from cruel and inhumane to life-affirming and heroic, the act was at once shocking and effective, leaving the family closer than ever, and shedding light on the sometimes massive measures it takes to save the life of a child in a world that values them as nothing more than a tool to be used, abused, and eventually disposed of.
Cleage's piece, although inspired by the 1991 news story, modifies the story quite a bit.
Linda Marrero, a Bronx native of Puerto Rican descent, becomes Rosa Jackson, an Alabama girl transposed to the tough streets of New York in Pearl's hands. The real-life two months becomes seven nights of withdrawal, denial, angst, reflection, and, finally, acceptance over the 90 enthralling minutes this stage show occupies.
Celebrated local actress Nishanti Bailey recently completed a four-night run of the work at the Daylesford Theatre, to the utter delight and awe of several capacity crowds.
Miss Bailey brought Rosa to life with consummate professionalism, portraying the guttural nature of hard street living and heavy drug use with startling coherence and realism.
Some of the language used in this piece was cringe worthy, especially to more conservative audience members, but this was theatre at its raw, untethered best; free of censorship, reserve, and abandon.
Rosa was a 15-year-old crack addict, and Miss Bailey's portrayal was nothing short of grippingly accurate.
Miss Bailey delivered anger, disgust, indignation, ecstasy, bliss, yearning, compassion, angst, nostalgia, indifference, and understanding with equal relish and considerable skill, as she took us on a seven-day journey from vehement defiance to grateful acceptance.
Rosa complained about family issues, described her relationship with her ‘friend' Jesus, explained why Jesus was such a cold and detached person, revelled in memories of the feeling she got from being high, questioned the logic of anti-drug messages that never confess how good it feels to be high, and, ultimately, came to terms with her makeshift imprisonment and vowed off drugs for good.
The piece ended with a knock on the door and Rosa, having been released from her chain, going to see who was there, and, never quite revealing who it was, leaving with them. The visceral nature of the story, the things described by Rosa, and the destructive influence that Jesus and the streets had had on her life made us hope that it was not Jesus at the door, but there was no ultimate reveal.
The story ends, and we hope that Rosa will be okay, that her chain was effective enough to give her the strength to resist the lure of the street; the lure of sex, drugs, and self-destruction. We hope — which is all we are left with.
The closing performance of Chain was delivered to a rapt audience on Saturday night, and a typically amazing rendering was rewarded with an emphatic standing ovation.
After the show, Miss Bailey addressed the audience to update us on the progress made in her $30,000 Thirtieth charity initiative. She revealed that her company, N'tertainment Bermuda, was well on their way to raising the targeted $30,000 for charity, having passed the $15,000 mark over the four-day Daylesford theatre run of this fabulous one-woman show.