Double dose of family havoc in Deny, Deny
Tuesday May 09 2023
Heartstrings Entertainment performed an excellent indigenized version of the Ray Cooney farce last weekend at Alliance Francaise.
Those who know the British comedy, entitled It Runs in the Family might not have even recognized the play In Deny, Deny, Deny apart from the initial split screen in the first act when the two kids, Gavin (Fischer Maina) and Vicky (Bernice Nthenya) are doing a silly ‘pillow talk’ over their cell phones while occupying two separate households.
Giggling and giddy over their new-found love, they are children of a taxi driver named Juma John (Dedan Juma), something they don’t discover until the final moments of the play.
Up until then, they are basking in the early glow of the fresh affection that they share after being together (mostly vicariously) for a little over a month.
It’s the mothers of these children who don’t want their kids to get involved with strangers. Not that they know the boy- and girlfriends are related in any way. But the kids want to change all that.
Meaning they plan for that very day to be the one that Vicky comes home to Gavin’s so she can meet his mom.
Vicky’s mother (Zeitun Salat) is far more possessive of her child than Gavin’s (Joy Wangari).
She has to be with Vicky whenever she goes out. Such surveillance is not common and it doesn’t feature in the British farce.
But it helps us understand how Vicky could be 20 years old and never have had a boyfriend before.
Mary also knows that the world outside their home can be hard on women. She even refers to the fact that she doesn’t want to cope with a potential pregnancy which she knows could easily happen in the heat of the moment, especially in light of the passionate affection we hear expressed mutually by the two youths.
For some reason, Vicky’s dad Juma claims he is not available to go with his daughter to meet the prospective in-laws, but he is able to pursue Uncle Stanley to at least drive her to the boyfriend’s house and drop her there.
We don’t imagine there is anything odd about the father’s inability to be by his dear daughter’s side when she goes to meet the boy’s family.
If he had actually known where she was going, one wonders why he wouldn’t have stopped the trip altogether. But that’s one loose end we won’t worry about.
The point was, we wanted to meet Stanley and bask in his jokes before the hammer came down and the truth as to everybody’s lineage would be found out. But for now, Vicky had to reach Gavin’s house and meet the mom.
The joke was that within minutes of Vicky’s arrival, her mom showed up escorted by Stanley who drove her there.
But so, did Zephaniah (Arnold Saviour) with his bad leg and wonderful physical comedy that allowed that ‘bad leg’ to be good and funny from the hip bone down to his toe.
Zephaniah was definitely not a character the equivalent of which could be found in the Cooney comedy, but he was in Heartstrings’ where ‘Deny, Deny, Deny’ was such jolly good fun. His banter with Uncle Stanley was also hilarious as well as being hyperbolic.
Ironically, the kids were largely forgotten just as soon as Gavin was released to prepare the chicken for cooking.
And then when he came back and asked if Vicky could assist him, nobody seemed to care.
The drama was apparently between the two older women who seemed to be eyeing one another in inscrutable ways.
It was only when Juma stopped by Mary’s house that he was unmasked as the man who ran two separate homes.
But unlike the British show where John the taxi driver had married both women, both Mary and Moraa were initially side-chicks of Juma.
But both provided him with such wonderfully happy and comfortable homes, he kept them both, something that in Kenya is not against the law (I believe) if neither one is legally contracted as a wife.
Juma’s arrival is like a bombshell being dropped in the middle of this family affair.
Both mothers have already got to talking, but unlike the Cooney comedy, the mothers never let on to Juma that they have known about one another for years and apparently have become good buddies ever since.
The final crisis arises when the alarms go off, that Gavin and Vicky can never get hitched since Juma is both of their dads.
Suddenly, the tables are turned and Mary says they can wed since Juma is not Gavin’s Dad.
Then Moraa speaks up and says no, they cannot marry since Stanley is really her dad!! And then comes the final joke: it’s that Stanley is also Gavin’s Dad.
What we can’t know is who had the last laugh in the end!!