Before a not-so-sold-out—but nice—crowd; Je’Caryous Johnson presented his play “Cheaper to Keep Her” for St. Louis showings on Saturday, October 23, 2010 at the Chaifetz Arena.
The show opened with a splash of humor as gospel comedian, Jonathan Slocumb, warmed up the crowd with good-clean humor as he lead into the introduction to the rest of the cast. Immediately, it was obvious that the plot was going to be predictable. With R&B singer and talk-show host, Brian McKnight and actress Vivica A. Fox starring in the leading roles of Dr. Raymond Mays and his wife, Morgan Mays; the crowd knew one thing for sure—the singing would be superb, and the acting would be awesome—well, at least they were partly right in this assumption.
From the beginning the plot was predictable—two married couples and their single friends; St. Louis’s own, comedian, Gary “G-Thang” Johnson and actress Karen Malina White—who both happen to be attorneys— made you slightly reminiscent of every plot to every black romance ever written.
Johnson clearly wasn’t looking to showcase his literary prowess during this play. With predictable one-liners and what I’d like to consider cliché comedy, the cast over-acted their way through the story line. From the beginning, it was obvious that McKnight wasn’t feeling his wife. At no time did the audience feel a connection between Fox, who stepped out of her usual sassy self to play a submissive wife with dreams deferred while watching her husband’s new practice take off, so it was no surprise that the audience was rooting for the more convincing—and extremely handsome— actor, Christian Keyes, who played Fox’s first love to win her over.
Overall, the story felt a bit rushed, and unless you are a major fan of the comedy from Tyler Perry’s House of Pain, then you won’t really be too keen on all the corny clichés that fill the script—although a few of them were so corny, they were comical.
What Johnson did do well was pair a cast of familiar faces with a score composed of Brian McKnight’s greatest hits—certain to gather crowd participation and anticipation—not anticipating the obvious and predictable plot, but anticipating which song Brian McKnight was going to sing, reminding us of his purpose—to sing his way into our spirit. Although his acting wasn’t of the most sincere sort, his music was moving, and consistent in keeping the crowd engaged enough to be believers in his music again.
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