Preview night of Deon Denton’s new musical, Pieces of Me, proved that you can have too much of a good thing. In this case, 3 hours of inspirational theatre (a few good workshops and an editor would have done this production well). ‘Pieces of Me’ is Denton’s modern take on the undying love story of Hosea and Gomer (visit the Old Testament for a refresher course, it’s imperative). It is written that God says to Homer, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry”. Biblical scholars have interpreted this as God telling Hosea to wed a prostitute, a woman with flaws if you will. This major perfection flaw is said to mimic God’s own relationship with us, his imperfect creations. Consider yourself a harlot.
From this myth Pieces of Me is born; Denton replaces Hosea with Parker portrayed valiantly by Sheldon Neil, and Gomer with Pamela played masterfully by Shahi Teruko. What was unfortunate about this production is the wealth of material presented by the story of Hosea that was completely demeaned by the author to nothing more than a story of a God-fearing husband and promiscuous wife (one of the actual songs in the musical): man and his she-devil. How patriarchal of the female writer. The tragic refrain of ‘Who am I?’ sung unnecessarily by Pamela in the first half alludes to more meeting the eye. The former prostitute is restless in her life as a housewife: A life that appears friendless, purposeless and interest-less. This is where I strongly begin to question the representation of their relationship. Parker is without a doubt, an aloof, self-involved, absentee husband to a housewife. Therefore, her entire existence is pleasing him (not a far stretch for a former a prostitute). Of course Pamela is lured is back to her former hedonistic life after Shalene’s (her foster sister and fellow street walker) visit. She cooks, she maintains lucky jackets and she keeps her wig shiny. The woman is bored to pieces see what I did there?).
Pamela is trapped between the faithless wife and the restless prostitute according to the author’s thin portrayal of what is, simply, an unsatisfied woman (the travesty). Where the actors give more than commendable performances, the author fails in providing a script that possesses any depth worth mentioning. Instead, it focuses so heavily on casting an indictment on the secular world that ‘Pieces of Me’ erases any victories earned through the women’s suffrage movement. Parker’s disregard for his wife is never explored. His absenteeism is never addressed. It is ignored in the face of Pamela’s promiscuity (which I have my doubts about). Can women be promiscuous? Yes. Can men be faithful? This is a story of what happens when two individuals have nothing in common; two people from different worlds fall in love. At least, that is the story of H
osea and Gomer. What of the story of Pamela and Parker? This is the story of a man who confuses love and pity, a counselor that tells him the two aren’t all that different and a woman who lacks identity without a man to anchor her (and then we awoke in 2013).
An old story in modern clothes does not a twist make. The numerous scene changes shone a light on the playwright and director’s film training and lack of stage acumen. As did the additional hour and excessive number of songs; traditionally a Broadway musical boasts 15 to 20 songs. ‘Pieces of me’ exceeds the maximum by 10 songs. The character of the narrator was a transparent device to cover up lengthy, annoying set changes. An unfortunate truth for a character played brilliantly by Crystal Neil. Sigh.
All in all: A feeble attempt at bringing one of the Bible’s least known, but most poignant stories of undying love to the stage.