Saturday, February 18, 2006

Spent the evening at SRT watching "She Chose," a double-bill of 2 female-driven plays by NTU's Hall 15. I was there to support Mei, who, despite having been in the cast of The Odyssey only "for the SYF points," is so far the only one in that group who has taken on a major role in another stage production since, as far as I know.

This production had "amateur" stamped all over it. In general, the most irritating device was the interminably long blackouts between scene changes, sometimes lasting longer than the previous scene even. The other thing was the background music that looped non-stop even while the characters were speaking.

Both plays focused on the female cast: the male actors were only there for their female counterparts to act around. The males played fools, idiots, and bizarre nutcases; no one real; whereas the women at least got roles in which they made choices that drove the plot on. Hence, I presume, the title.

The first play, "Love Edifice," was inconsistent between scenes. It sort of alternated between concrete, abstract and (somewhat self-indulgent) multimedia. It opened with an elaborate wedding procession, the only point of which was to tell us that a couple got married. In the couple of scenes in which the men and the women told the audience how they classified the opposite sex, there was a lot of posing according to the speaker's description, but the movement served mostly to distract from rather than enhance the text. The multimedia slideshow portrayed the progress of the characters as couples in various stages of matrimony. But this information was already evident from the script, so it really wasn't necessary to rehash it, even if there needed to be an excuse to be fashionable and use multimedia.

"Hungry," the second play, likewise suffered from too-muchness. Almost every character went o-t-t with devised movement and similarly artificial speech patterns designed only to make one character appear different from another.

Even the character of Death maxed out the stage-direction that Death should be "neither masculine nor feminine." But the half-male-half-female costume and make-up suggested that Death was BOTH rather than "neither," a very different meaning altogether. This portrayal made the actor play up his feminine side just to counter the fact that he was male, so Death ended up effeminate instead. Moreover, the gender of Death was never an issue in the story, so the painstaking effort to portray its androgyny failed to make any point whatsoever.

If anything, the director's main fault is that she attempted to do too much of everything everywhere, without considering the payoff to character development and audience satisfaction. But that's a mistake usually made due to inexperience and, perhaps, learning from poor precedents.

Mei, if you're still reading, this is where I talk about you. In an asylum of contrivance and artifice, your character comes across as a perfectly normal, ordinary human being. Major kudos to you for keeping it real. If anyone chose in this performance, you did. You chose the pacing of your lines and movement; your spot-on timing and delivery. Where lighting was patchy, you chose to stand in the light where we could see you.

There were a couple of moments when you spoke with your back to the audience, though, and occasionally you succumbed to peer pressure and likewise went a little o-t-t, but you were in control of your character for the most part. You thought about your character and made yourself become Sarah rather than simply put on an external mask or persona.

Without sounding too biased (I hope) it was your performance I enjoyed most this evening because in that hour, you and Sarah were indistinguishable from one another. So, great job, Mei! Glad I could get to see you backstage, and I hope to see more of you on-stage soon!

No comments: