Devon Dick | Once a man, twice a wife?
In recent times, I attended – twice - the Basil Dawkins’ play Once a Man, Twice a Wife. The second time was with friends, Sharon and her husband, Timothy Stewart, the first non-American to head the 2.5-million-strong membership of the Progressive National Baptist Convention USA.
This play is very relevant in the context of so many issues related to domestic violence, including the murdering of women by their intimate partners and then suicide by the partner. A catch phrase of the play is that divorce was invented to prevent murder. Time and time again, the main character, Byron, had great difficulty in anger management when he was having problems with his aloof and amorous wife.
It is troubling that so many men believe that the way to handle perceived unfaithfulness of women is murder-suicide. Dawkins gave an insight into what might be causing men to kill their intimate partners. The speculation is that when a man loves so deeply that the wife is not his ‘princess’ only but his ‘god’, and he gets disappointed through her unfaithfulness, then his mental headspace collapses. Sadly, the husband then wants her out of his head and out of this world. Serious problems can result when we worship the creature rather than the Creator.
The play also deals with women’s rights. The play explores the issue of a husband paying for his wife’s higher education, and then feels she is bigger than her ordinary Joe of a husband. Equally telling is the confession of the wife that she never really loved her husband, but only respect him. There is a big difference between the two. One can respect someone without having erotic feelings of love for the other. There needs to be love in the fullest sense.
Love is the central theme of the play, according to the director, Douglas Prout. Prout asks in the programme if you have ever received or given love unconditionally? The love which is selfless and unconditional. He also wonders whether true love exists? Prout desires a more ‘empathic, compassionate, loving and temperate society’. He ends by quoting 1 Cor. 1 3 ‘Love is patient, love is kind . . . It always protects, always trusts always hopes’. Everybody can say ‘amen’ to that.
The play did not delve into why Jamaican women never kill their lovers and then commit suicide. Also, the play and title seem apart. In the play, Byron was married three times, and divorced twice, so how come ‘twice a wife’? Apparently, the title is a play on the proverb, ‘Once a man, twice a child, which means that every man starts out as a child and then grows into an adult, and then as ageing takes place, one loses physical strength and intellectual abilities, thereby becoming a child again.
The script is good. The acting by Karen Harrriott, Dorothy Cunningham and Earle Brown was good. The sub-plots are engaging.
Twice in the play I witnessed novel responses of the audience. The first was when an actress completed a prayer, the audience became a congregation and spontaneously said, ‘Amen’. Some might argue that was due to the fact that that night the benefit performance was sponsored by a church group. Also, nearing the end of the play, again the audience got so much into the play that they were yelling out the name of an actor as if at a sporting arena.
Well, Timothy and Sharon, who are Bahamians, enjoyed the play and it was one of the highlights of their visit to Jamaica. For me, it was twice as nice the second time.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all my readers.
Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of ‘The Cross and the Machete’, and ‘Rebellion to Riot’. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.