Review: Laughter and Adventure in “Jamaica, Farewell”

There is something for everyone in “Jamaica, Farewell”—there is joy and laughter, danger and adventure, disappointment and sadness, success and triumph. And there is love and forgiveness.

Jamaica, Farewell is so superbly written–and artfully performed by its playwright / performer, Debra Ehrhardt–that you won’t want it to end.

The play moves along quickly and the audience is immediately captivated as Debra seamlessly transitions between the more than a dozen characters in the play including her childhood friend, Charmaine; her mother, Kathryn; her father; her preacher; her boss, the radio announcer and the CIA agent, Jack. But what is most impressive is how believable she is as each character. You can readily discern when her childhood friend or her mother is speaking, for example.

As a child growing up in Jamaica, “the blue emerald of the Caribbean,” Debra longs to go to America because her friend, Charmaine, goes to Miami often—her father works for Air Jamaica—and brings back delicious goodies not available on the island and “you can do whatever you want in America.”

Even in paradise, life has its complications and Debra’s father disappoints her often as he grapples with his personal demons of drinking and gambling; when he gambles away the furniture, she is forced to sleep on the floor and almost loses her precious teddy bear. He is absent at birthdays. Yet through it all she still loves her dad and has forgiven him so many times she has become “an expert in forgiveness.”

Debra graduates from high school and decides to pursue her dream of coming to America. As political violence erupts, the island becomes a “place of turmoil and instability” and the need to leave is even more pressing. With so many people attempting to leave the island, getting a coveted US visa proves difficult and after repeated rejections by the US embassy, she realizes that it has gone from “nearly impossible to clearly impossible” to get a visa.

Then one day she meets Jack, the CIA agent. She soon embarks on a risky mission of tricking him into helping her smuggle a large sum of money through customs in order to realize her dream of coming to America. Getting caught would land her in a Jamaican prison for at least 20 years.

Jamaica, Farewell is more than just another coming to America story–it is a story of a mother’s devotion to her family; a daughter’s unconditional love for her dad and a young woman’s determination to create a way where there is no way.

About the author

Glen Laman