Eyes Wide Shut: Heartstrings debates wedlock pros and cons

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Bernice Nthenge and Tim Ndisii costar in Heartstrings' comedy 'Eyes Wide Shut' at Alliance Francaise, on March 17, 2024. PHOTO | POOL

The pros and cons of wedlock are the big debate in Heartstrings’ latest comedy, Eyes Wide Shut which was staged late last month at Alliance Francaise. It’s not an issue that concerns Joseph (Mitch Makwaka) or his buddies, Solomon (Tim Ndissi), Hezekiah (Fischer Maina), Zamuzam (Zeituni Salat) or even the Gardener (Saviour Arnold) who all, except for Joe, have chilren already in college or children having children of their own.

Even the young woman Zamuzam who hangs out with this bawdy bunch of guys does not seem nervous that she doesn’t have a husband or babies back home. Why that’s the case, we won’t know until she is radically transformed by Mamasita, (Bernice Nthenge), who is also Mama Joseph.

By some magical means, Mama Jose can totally makeover the tomboyish girl into a beautiful femme fatale who now wants all the conventional stuff, like marriage and babies galore. Mamasita is also quite adamant that her son, at age 35 and a qualified engineer, should not be as lazy as his buddies; instead, he should become respectable by having a good spouse and plenty of children.

The comedy opens with someone banging on Joseph’s front door. He seems to know who it is and rushes around trying to tidy up and present a clean façade for his mom. When the door is opened by the Gardener, Mamasita storms in, already in an argumentative mood.

She is furious to find the buddies there, swarming around her son and making him forget what he is meant to be doing with his life. She is especially angry to see all the booze in the house. Soloman is even so brazen as to walk with his bottle of hard stuff in hand and try to approach the mama as if to entice an embrace. 

She swats him off like a fly and continues her tirade.

She had already told her son that she is a ‘woman of impact’ who speaks out for women’s rights and empowerment. She also speaks out for the values associated with marriage, and the waste of time guys like his buddies are when someone’s in pursuit of the finer things in life, like a good life with a wife at his side.

She knows it might be difficult to grasp since his dad walked out on them 17 years before. But she has proved what a strong woman can do to lift her family alone, and he should be looking for a woman who is as strong as she is. Not the kind that she finds hiding in his bedroom whose name her son doesn’t even know.

Mamasita is both shocked and saddened at seeing her son get so lost. She feels she must rectify the situation somehow. So, she suddenly decides to put everyone on lockdown until they get the message to do better things with their lives. It’s a radical choice, requiring a comprehensive clean-up both in body and in mind. But since her ferocity has intimidated them all, they comply. Of course, the Gardener turns out to be a slippery fish who swoops in and out of the house, with no intention of changing his ways.

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Bernice Nthenge in Heartstrings' comedy 'Eyes Wide Shut' at Alliance Francaise, on March 17, 2024. PHOTO | POOL

Nonetheless, after several days, one can see changes taking tangible shape. The booze and the weed that the mom smelt the moment she stepped foot in Joe’s house are all gone. Zamuzam has been transformed into a beauty Joe has finally seen for the first time. A season of joy seems to have arrived in Joe’s house.

But then, the tables are turned again once a stranger arrives carrying the oranges he had gone out to buy 17 years before. His is a puny gesture that is not welcomed by Mamasita. Joe doesn’t know who the man is initially since he was small when his father left home and never came back.

Looking like the man wanting to get back his life as before, only Joe is excited that his father Mwakimwaki (Ibrahim Muchemi) has finally returned home. But that was his initial response. Once the man starts lecturing him on the values of marriage, Joe sees the hypocrisy of the guy. Nonetheless, not even this stranger is going to distract Joe from announcing he wants to marry Zamuzam.

But the punchline of the play is his dad’s confession that it can’t happen since Zamu is his sister by another woman. The end.

And where does that leave us? In laughable limbo and shock, like all the other characters in the play.

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