Sunday, February 26, 2012

Boom: KLPAC play that is by no means bust

Tonight Deric and I went to see Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's play, boom, which is currently showing at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre.

Touted as "the Asian premiere of America's most produced play in 2009-2010" in the email invitation I received from The Actors Studio, I was naturally curious as to what it was all about and whether it was as great as the email had suggested.

What I found was that it as just as was described in the review published in The Star. The outstanding features of the play were its riveting, hilarious script and the splendid performance that was put up by the actors.

The play's script consisted was a colourful concoction of words, and was extremely delightful and witty although it would have been better had it not incorporated any foul language as part of the script.

It also had the most elaborate stage setup that I've seen thus far (do bear in mind that I haven't really seen many plays thus far in my life).The stage was set to look like an apartment room atmostphere and felt very believable, gave the impression that it was lived in and put frankly, looked quite natural.

The thing that intrigued me the most about it was that during an earthquake scene in the play, wall cupboards which were part of the set could actually tilt and move in such a way as to give the impression that the earthquake was real.

The storyline itself was interesting too. So was the fact that the story was being narrated occasionally from the viewpoint of a woman who works at a museum (Barbara) and is in charge of the exhibit from which we are watching the story of Jules and Jo (the play's two main characters) unfold.

Among the subtexts of the play was the topic of sex. In view of this as well as the fact that there is some indecent language in the dialogue, I'd say the play is not suitable for anyone below 18 or those who do not have a firm grasp on their faith or have yet to adopt a personal stand on what their views are regarding the theory of evolution.

For me, it was the first time I've seen sex scenes in a play. To be a bit more specific, there are several French kissing scenes in the play, coupled by a scene where Jules is heard quoting lines (while hidden backstage) that connote masturbation and also another scene where Jules and Jo are making out and tumbling around in bed intertwined (but thankfully the audience is spared of nudity, making it a tad less uncomfortable than say, movies these days).

Oh, and I shouldn't leave out mentioning the fact that even right at the start of the play, the actors are already kissing (although briefly, compared to the later bit), and Jo is telling Jules to take off his shirt and pants (put simply, to get naked so they can get on with it and have sex). 

But the main subtext of the play would be its clear pro-evolution stance, zooming in on promoting the theory that we evolved from fish. A fishy perspective, if you ask me. 

The (typically morbid) subject of the apocalypse was also touched on as part of the play's plot. But because the play was comedic in nature, it wasn't at all a grim experience for us in the audience and therefore, remained more or less still quite palatable. 

Another thing about the play is the fact that it was not adapted or localised (ie Malaysianised), but was instead performed as is. Since it was written by a playwright from the US, some aspects of the play had a distinct American feel to it. Especially in terms of places mentioned, manner of speech and expressions, and certain lifestyle traits (eg: advertising online for random sex with a stranger - but then again, I can't exactly say for sure that this doesn't happen in Malaysia; it might but probably in a more hushed setting rather than openly advertised in public).

Although this did not in any way render the production any less professional (in fact, I must say, they did a splendid, rather immaculate job with the acting and effects), Deric did point out that it was weird to have Asian cast reciting such a Westernised script and I do agree with this point of his. Perhaps it may not have been so weird if the actors were orang putih (Malay for "white people" or "Westerners") themselves.

Well, all in all, it was an entertaining play, thus it has achieved the basic purpose behind producing stage plays. Both Deric and I had many good laughs while watching the play, and we agreed afterwards that it was an enjoyable play.

We don't agree with the premise of the subtext though.

But don't get me wrong, I like fish. And, in the true spirit of a Malaysian Chinese, I especially like mine cooked with ginger.


Strife said...

I think you got one fundamental point of the plot wrong. Sure, there's a pro-evolution subtext, but Barbara was very much from the future. The audience itself also played a role, as we became Fish-evolved people from the future. At least, from Barbara's perspective ;)

Susanna said...

Mmm good point there, Strife. I guess I didn't elaborate much about Barbara's part in the play when I wrote my blog post. Nice to meet you, by the way. I presume you're from the US? :)