Simply Heavenly, a good choice for the name of this play as it fits in with the theme of love and relationships. There’s also a link with the lead ‘Jesse B Simple’, who proves to be a very simple man who eventually battles his way through dilemmas and obstacles to find his idea of heaven, marrying his girlfriend Joyce Laine.
The play is based on Harlem New York in the 1950’s period. At the beginning of the play an introductory song brings in all the characters. They enter the bar from centre stage making the usual chit-chat before bursting into song with a fantastic dance routine.
This is a front view of the stage:
After the dance routine most actors leave gradually. A few characters remain; the barman, Bodiddly and his son, and other customers. The scene change is clever and smooth using music to draw attention from the actors leaving the stage. After this short scene we are introduced to another character, Jesse Simple.
The scene changes to Jesse’s room. His room looks lower class and hasn’t got much on it. He has a bed and bedside table, cupboard, and very few possessions. The decoration and colours used are dark browns, greens, and simple accessories. His room is on the left of the stage and cleverly moves in and out of the wall because of a moving floor. I liked this idea because it makes scene changes quick and effective. The lights are dimmed on the main stage and a spotlight is positioned on Jesse’s room to make it seem closer.
Jesse’s scene finishes then a new character is introduced, his girlfriend of five years, Joyce Laine. When the floor slides to the left Jesse leaves the stage and Joyce’s bedroom slides in on the right. From what we can see in the room there is a big contrast between Jesse’s room and Joyce’s. Whereas both rooms are quite bare, the quality of Joyce’s room is much better which shows she has class and high status. The colour scheme in her room is warm and inviting, where on the other hand Jesse’s room looks cold, bare and gloomy.
When Joyce arrives on stage she looks quite simple but pretty. Her hair is tied back in a smart neat ponytail and her clothes have an aura of grace about her. Her posture is straight and proper, but friendly, and she is happily singing “Simply Heavenly” as she goes about her chores.
Jesse comes to visit Joyce, who stops him from closing the door completely because of her strict landlady’s rules. When they begin conversing you can instantly detect the difference in status from their accent and use of words. Jesse speaks in a fast, street, old New York style voice. Joyce speaks in a slower rhythm and pronounces her words in a way as if to show she’s educated. She doesn’t use slang like Jesse, whom she tells off for improper grammar later on.
In this scene we discover that Joyce yearns to have Jesse propose to her. Jesse still hasn’t divorced his wife since they split, five years ago, and is reluctant to make an effort to do so. Joyce looks hurt and has an impatient tone in her voice. Her voice is quite soft and delicate and fits perfectly with her petite frame.
The next scene is in the bar again and we are introduced to more new characters. There’s Miss Mamie, a large lady with a large heart and Gitfiddle, the little busker who broke his guitar. Bodiddly’s wife ‘Arcie’ comes in and causes quite a scene because she is drunk. The way she walks and speaks slurred is amusing and hilarious.
The key moment which changes everything first is Zarita’s first appearance. She enters the stage via the steps on the right; she does a little flirty walk by kicking her feet back and showing off. She is dressed very over the top with a matching skirt, blazer and bag. She speaks in a flirty, girly, voice and tries her best to seduce Jesse, who isn’t keen on the idea at first because of his loyalty to Joyce.