The dream-like Whale Fall is a sell-out

(Above, from left) Shafiqhah Efandi, Deonn Yang and Faizal Abdullah in Drip.
(Above, from left) Shafiqhah Efandi, Deonn Yang and Faizal Abdullah in Drip.PHOTO: TUCKYS PHOTOGRAPHY

Comic dramas have hidden depths in The Orange Production double bill

REVIEW / THEATRE

THE ORANGE PRODUCTION: DRIP & WHALE FALL

The Necessary Stage

The Necessary Stage Black Box/ Thursday

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When a whale dies and falls to the depths of the oceans, its decomposing body gives life to a teeming multitude of plants and marine animals.

Faith Ng's Whale Fall similarly presents the complex inner life of a long friendship between two women. Is it decaying or transforming into something new?

The dream-like play directed by Alvin Tan is one of two stand-out shows in this double bill from The Necessary Stage. It comes under The Orange Production, a new platform for the 30-year-old group to collaborate with new artists.

Playwright Ng's insights into the relationships between women and girls have won accolades from wo(men) in 2010 to school drama Normal, staged by Checkpoint Theatre in 2015 and this year.

Whale Fall is both lighter and tighter. At one point, a toy whale drops from the ceiling. At another, real-life BFFs Elizabeth Lazan and Jeane Reveendran hang on to the underside of a bed and convince the audience they are at the mercy of storm-tossed seas, or maybe the roiling undercurrents of the characters' relationships.

The dialogue is as sparse as the bleached-bone, moonlit aesthetic created on stage by set designer Azy Alias and lighting designer Liu Yong Huay, and as full of mystery and meaning.

In contrast, Drip by Straits Times journalist Nabilah Said is solid and realistic, though abyssal depths lurk beneath its comic drama.

Drip explores the sacrifices made for marital and familial harmony. Deonn Yang shines as Xiaoyan, a new Muslim convert dealing with pregnancy cravings for taboo dishes containing pork.

The always competent Shafiqhah Efandi and Faizal Abdullah play Xiaoyan's sister-in-law and husband Azam, respectively.

One incurs maternal wrath by smoking and living out of wedlock with her boyfriend. The other is a binge drinker.

Mopping up the leaks from her husband's party gets Xiaoyan into hot water with her staunchly Muslim mother-in-law, played delightfully by Nurijah Sahat.

Drip is directed by The Necessary Stage's playwright Haresh Sharma - the first time he directs a work not his own - and is a one-act drama powered by repartee and actor chemistry.

Liquid is a prominent motif. Blessed water is brought to the couple's flat by the mother-in-law to ensure her family's health and replace bottles of Newater, a risible but necessary resource.

Hidden bottles of alcohol leak, water spills from plates containing the haram food Xiaoyan craves. Amid the farce that ensues to preserve family harmony, questions surface about the disconnect between appearance and inner reality.

Perhaps a lovely illusion can sustain entire lives. Believing in that illusion long enough may even turn it into reality - as long as one seals away the drips before they mar the perfect facade.

•The Orange Production is sold out.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2017, with the headline 'Peek below the surface'. Print Edition | Subscribe