Monday November 19, 2012
For love of Fools
By TERENCE TOH
Over-the-top tales of romantic excess add up to a delightful romp on stage.
LOVE makes fools of us all, big and little.Writer William Makepeace Thackeray may have said this in the 19th century, but his words still ring true today: who among us has never done something outrageous in the pursuit of love?
The idiosyncracies of love in all its forms, from blind dates and fantasies to orgies and weddings, took centre stage in ToniQ’s production of Rich Orloff’s Romantic Fools, recently staged at BlackBox in MAP@Publika in Kuala Lumpur.
A witty and wonderful collection of humorous sketches, the production was entertaining from beginning to end.
Directed by Reza Zainal Abidin, it featured Joanne Kam, Tony Eusoff, Chelsia Ng, Iedil Putra, Megat Sharizal and Sarah Shahrum.
Romantic Fools, originally written as a two-person revue, is about a man (Eusoff) and a woman (Kam) who go through all the ups and downs of love.
The show has seen more than 300 productions around the world, and played for over a year in Madrid and Belgrade. Orloff’s short plays have had over 800 productions on six of the seven continents, including a staged reading in Antartica.
Most of the humour in Romantic Fools came from the over-the-top nature of its sketches, which explored relatively normal themes in fantastic and ridiculous ways.
In Find Me A Primitive Man, for example, a woman’s wish for a simple, unpolished man leads to her going out with an actual caveman, while Power Is The Greatest Aphrodisiac used an arm-wrestling competition to explore insecurities and the balance of power in relationships.
Orloff’s script is wonderful and witty, managing to be thought-provoking, relatable and laugh-out-loud funny all at the same time.
While some of its clever wordplay sadly seemed to fly over the heads of audience members, the lines that succeeded packed a punch. One of my favourite lines came during Sheep Or Much Ado About Mutton, a play about a man’s relations with various animals (I kid you not), where one character laments a menage a trois turning into a menagerie.
Not all of the segments worked: At The Orgy, a more explicit version of the classic Abbott and Costello routine Who’s On First, suffered from weak line delivery, while Sheep was too exaggerated to make much of an impact.
Most of the sketches, however, succeeded. One of the show’s highlights was Nice Tie, where two people meeting in a bar contemplate the consequences of approaching each other. Featuring detailed scenarios that slowly became more and more outlandish, the sketch was simultaneously dark and funny.
Another delightful sketch was Vegetarians In Lust, a sketch on temptations, where two vegetarians having relationship difficulties resort to an unusual (and mouth-watering) solution to their woes.
Particularly well-written was the closing sketch, Bride And Gloom, where a nervous bride is forced to confront her troubled family history on the day of her wedding. Like Nice Tie, the sketch was a good balance of comedy and drama, combining exaggerated scenarios with real-life issues to create a memorable piece of theatre enhanced by good acting performances.
My personal favorite segment of the show however, had to be the hilarious The Stepford Guy, which featured Eusoff as a mild-mannered, bow-tied and bespectacled husband who drives his wife (Kam) mad with his overly nice and perfect ways.
The show’s staging was simple but effective: movable backdrop walls altered with every scene change, with cast members dressed as Cupids moving props in and out.
True to the somewhat farcical nature of the production, the cast of Romantic Fools also put in over-the-top performances, which generally worked for the best.
Eusoff generally shone in the lead role, infusing his character’s multiple roles with a roguish charm. Kam, however, delivered an inconsistent performance, excelling in some segments, while seeming a bit artificial in others, most notably in Power.
Shahrum excelled in her role of the “Nightmare in a Sexy Skirt”, a manipulative and highly emotional woman coming across as a combination of the Overly Attached Girlfriend meme and Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attraction.
As the Primitive Man, Megat delivered an entertaining physical performance, delivering his grunts and growls with conviction.
Ng did a decent job as the escort “Secret Desire”, and as a bonus, looked very good in a corset. And Iedil, as a flamboyant trombone-obsessed wedding planner, amazingly managed to be the most over-the-top character in a production overflowing with them.
Overall, Romantic Fools is a light-hearted and delightful romp about the craziness of relationships, and is a great way to enjoy an evening out with a loved one.
Plus, the show features a scene with Eusoff literally diving into a plate of spaghetti which alone is worth the price of admission.