72-13/ Friday (July 20)
SINGAPORE - It is impossible to compartmentalise a life. Yet people try, telling themselves that work has nothing to do with personal life, that the demands of a friendship need never affect a domestic partnership.
The silliness of such ideas is illustrated neatly in the set design of 13.13.13, a high-energy and intriguing work written by new playwright Shen Tan and directed by Tan Shou Chen.
Set designer Chan Silei divides the performance space at 72-13 by white elastic cables defining different rooms in an apartment. The cast untethers and re-snaps the cables throughout the play, creating expanded or contracted configurations. These denote different rooms and, in a couple of well-chosen instances, are stretched like bowstrings to show how decisions meant to affect only one part of one's life now reach into everything else.
Four lives are intertwined in this play - there are six in total, but we see only four on stage.
William (Thomas Pang) and Samantha (Sharda Harrison) are a loving, committed couple whose relationship is defined by the parameters of no marriage and no children.
William's best friend Lynn (Jo Tan) and her domestic partner Kate (Chanel Chan) are a loving, committed couple who want children and the legal bond of marriage to define their relationship.
When Lynn and Kate have two kids and get legally married in New York, it causes William to question whether the bounds of his own relationship with Samantha are sufficient for them, or stifling them. Do they need more? Is there more to have?
And what will happen to them when these boundaries change?
13.13.13 is an upscale, urban love story with a lot of heart and a lot of the teething problems of a first run. Ninety-five minutes is too little time to go into platonic friendships, coming-of-age as a couple, and the emotional and legal ramifications of marriage - or any bond linking two people for life and ensuring decisions made by one affect both. But sometimes 95 minutes also seems like too much time for the play, as the plot meanders in true-to-life form.
The set is visually arresting and unusual, but also obscures the view of audience seated at the sides.
Harrison and Pang take a while to settle into their roles, though they eventually deliver natural performances.
Jo Tan and Chan are convincing from the start, balancing the text-heavy script with the body language and gestures necessary to fleshing out characters on stage. Their characters ground this play, which is also about different forms of love and the many ways in which one can make a family.
The families the characters are born into never make an appearance, only the family they make as friends and lovers. Families by choice are as important as families by birth. One of the strengths of 13.13.13 is that this idea is never in question.
WHERE: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road
WHEN: July 26, 27 and Aug 2, 3; 8pm, July 28 and Aug 4, 3pm and 8pm
TICKETS: $38 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to sistic.com.sg)