PHILIPSBURG – For those of you familiar with the surreal “Monty Python” comedy team in Britain, the title above will surely ring a bell.
Something totally different was certainly what John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and the Monty Python crew had in mind when they gave TV-land equally bizarre sketches – some literally bordering on the insane.
As so it is with Albina Matuzko’s production of Behind the Beyond, not insane – but something completely different for the St. Maarten stage – starting with a troupe of players from walks of like that you would least expect to find.
It’s not every day you see a Medical Doctor, a Civil Law Notary, a top Business woman, a veteran Journalist and three students taking a break from their very demanding professional lives and studies to down their guard of seriousness and bring some moments of laughter to total strangers.
Add to that mix a Fine Arts Teacher, An Engineer and another Business Executive and you can see how this motley crew would take some licking into shape for their opening performance at the Black Box Theatre of the John Larmonie Center this Friday (February 17).
Don’t expect a belly laugh from Dr. Carla van Dam next time you meet her as your attending physician at the St. Maarten Medical Center, or when she fills in for a General Practitioner in your neighbourhood clinic.
A very serious medical practitioner, first and foremost, Carla is a happily married mother of four children and likes dancing, playing tennis, hiking and having a good time with friends and family.
Her first time acting in a play, Carla says being a cast member of Behind the Beyond has been a challenge not only because of her long hours at work, but also because of her family commitments and her commitment to rehearsals.
She thoroughly enjoys the character she plays: a concerned mother, Mrs. Margaret Harding, who has just returned to England after the death of her husband in India. She absolutely loves the costumes and props, some of which she helped to shop for and some of which has a touch of her own fine needlework.
“The director, Albina is very enthusiastic and driven and has put a lot of trust in us, so we continue to rehearse, laugh and enjoy what we do. I wouldn’t have lasted without the support of my family who have been so understanding and wonderful and whom I love to bits,” said Carla.
One of the friends that the good doctor socializes with, is Civil Law Notary, Meredith Boekhoudt – also a mother and wife. She says the laugh turned out to be on herself and her two friends Carla and Eveline, when they answered an advertisement in the newspaper in August, last year, announcing auditions for an upcoming play.
“It started off as joke for the three of us when we decided to go to the auditions. I started to get cold feet and I know the other two did as well but they won’t admit it, but we pushed each other (figuratively and literally) through the door, and it turned out to be great!” hailed Meredith.
As the mischievous Narrator Girl, her natural presence on stage exposes a performance that would win over any judge in a real-life courtroom, comedy and all. She effortlessly and playfully interacts with the Narrator Boy leaving her to admit: “Who could have known that pushing your boundaries could be so hilarious at times.”
Meredith will take away from the experience the persons she has met and worked with these past months, including the “sweet, but dictatorial director, Albina.”
“To my fellow actors, to my family and of course to Albina, a big thank you for allowing me to do this, and also to the audiences without whom there would be no one to see our work.”
The third member of the auditioning trio is Eveline Henriquez-Dijkhoffz, who also admits to being “petrified” when she was picked to play the role of the super Diva, Lady Cicely Trevor, in Behind the Beyond. “Considering I was suckered into attending the auditions by my ‘fiends’ Carla and Meredith, with some prompting from Albina, it has turned out to be a fantastic experience.”
“Just come and look,” they said at the time. “You don’t have to audition, just look. Right.”
“Having committed six months of my life to rehearsals, I must thank the best husband on Earth and my two super-cool boys for letting their mum have some fun playing an English lady from a century ago,” says a grateful Eveline, who manages a wholesale business on St. Maarten and sits on several boards.
“For me, Behind the Beyond has been a right-brain mental stimulation exercise that has been wonderfully enjoyable, even though it has been serious hard work. Thanks to the hard work, endless guidance and patience of the Director, Albina, I am here now and ready to play my part with the other members of the Behind the Beyond family of whom I have grown very fond,” added Eveline.
Journalist, Public Relations Officer and local artist Joe Dominique says he could not be more out of his depth than when he decided to audition for a part in an upcoming comedy, and if he had listened more closely to his family members over the course of his lifetime he would have taken the cue, “you just can’t act dad!”
“I figured that using that as my measure, comedy would be the perfect starting point. After all I could make the kids laugh at my non-acting skills right? Right!”
At 58 years, Joe is the old man of the troupe with only a fleeting role in a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta to count as his only acting citation, but what he lacks in experience he more than makes up for in, well, a bumbling presence. He plays the role of Sir. John Trevor, an English Baronet who is happier smoking cigars with the boys at parliament than dealing with the affairs of home.
“Comedy is hard. Especially if you are a serious and private person by nature,” said Joe. For him, this production has been as much a voyage of discovery of inner self as it is of artistic interpretation. The director says, “Don’t think – just follow your instincts.” Easier said than done – to a born thinker and talker.
The three students in the cast of players are: St. Dominic High School student Sjoerd Scott, Charlotte Brookson Academy of the Performance Arts student Ray-Angel Simon and St. Maarten Academy student Zack Phipps. All are talented with a bright future on the stage should they wish to pursue that calling.
17-year-old Sjoerd says he had to overcome his own shyness and introvert nature by the age of 11, by building a whole new personality for himself based on peers around him with characteristics he wished he had. He remembers getting the acting bug at the age of seven when he played one of the three wise men in a Nativity play, and went further in researching and playing how an old man would act, than you would have expected of someone that age.
Sjoerd wants to be a lawyer by profession, but meantime enjoys the part he plays in Behind the Beyond as Jack Harding, a love-torn son creating a bit of a scandal. “Personally I think the play is quite odd and certainly out of norm, which is why I find it so intriguing to perform in, especially as I have been in some very serious plays in the past. Some improvisation is called for at times and this is a big jump for the quiet kid at the back of the class with nothing to say,” said the teenager, who also enjoys the process of preparing at rehearsals and is looking forward to showing off the final product.
The talent of Ray-Angel goes far beyond his tender age of 15 years. With a number of stage performances under his belt, the youngest member of the cast is probably the most accomplished when it comes to experience, and it shows in his performance as the Narrator Boy.
Ray-Angel’s first love is dance, to which he makes a commitment as a performer with the National Institute of Arts (NIA) every day except Sunday. “I enjoy any experience that engages me artistically and I am very happy to be in this production with Albina as the director. The hours are hard, because I also have to complete my school work every day, along with dance and rehearsals, but I am still enjoying the whole experience and will look out for other outlets like this in the future,” said Ray-Angel.
Rounding of the teenage cast in the show is 16-year-old Zack. Like Ray-Angel, Zack has also had quite some experience on stage and the production was lucky to have him as a last-minute addition to the troupe after at least four French Maids went AWOL.
Zack views his role as a female character, not only a challenge to his acting ability, but also a demonstration of the range that he can aspire to in his ambition to combine a career in the performing arts with physiotherapy. He loves musicals in particular and will try anything of an artistic nature, whether it’s drama, dance or singing – so long as it allows him to grow artistically and tests his abilities.
“For sure, Behind the Beyond is different to anything I have been in before (he has five theatrical productions under his belt) because it is my first comedic drama – definitely a must-see!”
You can guess that wherever there are students, there are also teachers around, and one can be found in the cast of Behind the Beyond in the tall shape and form of St. Dominic High School and Caribbean International Academy (CIA) Fine Arts teacher Cor Sikkes.
Teacher Cor is really the unsung hero of the all the cast members, having multiple roles to perform both on and off the stage – the most important being the beloved husband of director Albina Matuzko.
Cor has the role of set designer, set painter, props arranger, repairman, wardrobe technician and anything else that has to be fetched and carried. He is also one of three Stage Hands with their own parts to play in the production, with additional roles as the Valet and the Postman. Not bad for someone who also has to stay home to attend to pet pooch Funny, while mom is busy at rehearsals or doing Art of Laughter workshops with her young children and adults, rehearsing for a role in the next Theatre Lab Production, or working as a Standardized Patient at the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) where she also utilizes her acting skills.
“I do this because I love the arts and also because my wife deserves to realize her dream to be involved in dramatic arts in a profoundly different way on St. Maarten. If I have to play every role in the production to do that, then just sign me up,” says Cor.
The other Stage Hands are Nascha Kagie and Werner Van de Zilver. Nascha is an Engineer by profession. She is a keen and important member of the AUC Standardized Patients team and is presently involved in Art of Laughter classes at NIA. Nascha is also a key member of the Behind the Beyond team, ensuring that everything is where it should be so that everything will be all right on the night, every night.
Nascha’s passion on stage is shared by her fellow Stage Hand Werner van de Zilver, a mechanical professional, who is also Managing Director of a company that deals with generators and other machinery.
Werner enjoys working with the team and says from what he has seen so far, all credit to the director, Albina Matuzko, for bringing something different to the St. Maarten stage. “She is very passionate about what she wants and is not afraid to say so. That is what I like,” says Werner, who also acknowledges the director’s work as an actor in the upcoming Theatre Lab production “Dude with the Golden Tune” Directed by Loes Nauta.
Also working behind the scenes are husband and wife team Silvia and Jed Carty, without whom lights and sound would not be managed for the series of performances.
Cast members say they are counting on the infectious laugh of Silvia to give them a boost on opening night, assuming of course, that she’s not too busy laughing to remember to switch on the lights.
Behind the Beyond will be playing at the (Black Box Theatre) John Larmonie Center, Longwall Road, Philipsburg, on the following dates: February 17 (sold out); 18 (sold out); 24, February 25 (sold out); March 10 &11.
Performances begin at 8:00pm sharp. For reservations: 543-0600 or email: NIASXM@gmail.com.