Crony comedy full of wit and warfare


 Crony Players in 'Where is the Lie?' at Kenya National Theatre March 24, 2023. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Crony Players are so good at cracking genial jokes and amusing anecdotes in a style that feels improvisational, that one might be forgiven for wondering, where is this all going?

‘Where is the lie?’ is all about hyperbole and storytelling which the Players are very good at.

But that begs the question when one wants to know if there is a theme to their comedy? A basic storyline? Or is this play more like an impressionist painting, beautiful, colorful, but blurred in its expression of anything specific.

In fact, in Act I, a group of friends are guided by Jakss (Moses Gathecha) to a new restaurant opened by Mercy (Mercy Makena) and her friend Shilah (Tasha Wanjiru).

Much of the jovial chatter the men share relates to food and the way their wives, especially Ayub’s (Victor Nyaata) wife knows how to make delicious chapati.

But there’s another batch of women that they discuss. They’re the ones who make and sell cheap but sweet food in the open air.

They work in kibandas (open air eateries) and serve men like Kagari (Humphrey Maina) who is still single and has no complaints about the women’s food.

On the contrary, he looks happy to be eating the kibanda mama’s ugali, and is in no hurry to find a wife.

But herein we find the nugget of the play. It relates to matrimony and the folly of following friends’ advice when it comes to finding a spouse.

But advice is exactly what the gang of four insist on giving to their friend Kagari.  Kagari lives humbly with his mother, and apparently doesn’t feel inclined to change that situation.

But Kwach, Ayub, Elisha, and Jakss all feel it’s time for him to get moving with his life and join them in their marital misery.

Act 2 is all about the proposal which the four put him up to. One can see Kagari is scared to death of doing the deed of getting married.

But they even write up the four-word proposal with each man carrying a pink piece of paper that reads one of the four words: WILL YOU MARRY ME?

It nearly becomes a scuffle to get Kagari to play his part and ask Mercy, the lady with the new restaurant, to marry him. He’s so terrified of what his friends demand that he do that he’s on the verge of tears.

But they don’t care. They practically pin him down to bended knees, so that once she arrives, she can see their paper proposal and hear him say the same.

So, by that time, he’s resigned to doing as his friends say, especially as they’ve even bought him a ring to give to her!

But by Act 3 when we meet Kagari and Mercy and their brand new baby boy, we see a war zone in the making.

They are in a shouting match wherein every argument feels as if mental bullets are flying, each one filled with hot poisonous gas.

One can see their grievances are not new and not easily resolved. But the tensions are relaxed a bit once the gang of brothers show up one after the other.

There is no mention of COVID, but Kagari doesn’t give his friends a choice once they walk in the door.

He’s got giant plastic garbage bags sliced open for a head and two arms to pop out of the bag as soon as he pulls the bag over their heads and down their backs.

Who knew Kagari would become a hypochondriac once he got his own kid?

But that’s not half of it. Who knew that both Kagari and Mercy would be so prone to the old notion of ‘don’t show your dirty linen in public’ that they would totally reverse their emotional battle in a flash.

Then they’d present a perfectly happy family living scene for their four buddies who show up unexpectedly after quite some time.

But their unspoken truce cannot last long. Mercy accidentally spills juice on Kagari’s back and the guy exploded in the same way he did when she spilt hot tea on him on that fateful day when they first met.

Now that the guys are there to see the spectacle of marital misery, Mercy finally makes her move and storms out the door, and the play ends.

So, we see there was a method to Crony’s maddening meanderings. It was Don’t be swayed by peer pressure into doing what doesn’t come naturally to you.

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