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Chilly learns the hard way

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As clichéd sayings go, you don’t always know what you’ve got till it’s gone covers territory from the commonplace to life-changing events.

Rather than spending your time seeking out bigger and better people, objects and desires, focus your energy on making the most out of what you already have.

You may not have much, but at least it is yours.

It’s a lesson that a young Jamaican woman, named Chilly, learns in the most difficult way in Kerry Ann Gill’s comedy “A Bowl of Chilly Foreign Mind” now at the Black Spectrum Theatre through Sunday.

Gill has created a breezy, adult comedy, akin to a sitcom one might find on a basic cable channel, that follows the story of runaway bride Chilly on her quest for a better life in New York City.

Well, it is a life that Chilly believes will be better than the one she currently shares with her safe but boring financé Frankie.

So it doesn’t take much for Chilly to ditch Frankie — without even a note — and follow the handsome and wealthy American tourist, Courtney, back to Brooklyn.

Once stateside, Chilly quickly learns Courtney may not be the man he claimed to be back on the Caribbean beaches.

Atika Greene beautifully captures the self-serving Chilly, who does not consider anyone else before she acts. Greene then capably demonstrates the changes Chilly goes through once Courtney morphs from Mr. Right to Mr. Wrong.

Chilly is not a nice person, so you enjoy seeing her comeuppance at first, but then you start to feel sorry for her, which is a real testament to Greene’s acting ability.

Dianne Dixon as Chilly’s best friend Megan offers plenty of real laughs.

Whether it is watching this buxom young woman shake her booty as she cleans the house or express her true feelings to Frankie after a night of some serious drinking, Dixon lights up the stage each time she steps onto it.

And as Courtney’s landlord Pursey, actor Rudy Shaw makes the most of this lecherous and blind middle-aged man.

When Chilly first shows up from Jamaica, Pursey is dismayed she arrived without even a bottle of the island’s iconic alcoholic beverage.

“I would pretend to like you just for the rum,” Pursey tells Chilly.

Shaw also comes close to stopping the show when he lets loose with a version of Jamaica Reggae artist Beenie Man’s hit “I’m Drinking Rum & Redbull.”

One of the funnier bits involves Pursey’s less than perfectly matched outfits. Whether it is the zebra-stripped slacks and leopard-print shirt, or the patchwork tuxedo he dons, Pursey’s clothing gets crazier and the laughs get bigger as the play moves on.

“My fashion style is a movement,” he says.

Yes, the audience is laughing at him, but Shaw is absolutely controlling the joke.

And while Pursey may not be able to see, he definitely knows what is going on.

After Chilly breaks down and says her job as an old woman’s caretaker makes her feel like a slave, Pursey says, “Welcome to America. You can live free in Jamaica, but you can’t live free here.”

Pursey also makes Chilly realize she is responsible for her own happiness and needs to make her own way in life.

Chilly may earn money through menial labor and live in a basement apartment, but it is her job and her home.

And it doesn’t always have to stay that way if she doesn’t want it to.

Updated 1:49 pm, October 30, 2014
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