>love bites by 3.14 company

>reviewed by adi soon

>date: 22 nov 2001
>time: 8pm
>venue: agf theatre, alliance française
>rating: ***1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


"Do you love me?"

Love, a seemingly trite subject matter for a play. With much of the entertainment media steering away from portrayals of violence towards heart-warming, value-reaffirming themes, it would have seemed to be the ideal time for LOVE BITES to make it's appearance. Of course we all know this is so. Even the programme that was given at the door made mention of a recent event that seems to creep into most conversations nowadays.

Was it an escapist experience I had watching LOVE BITES? I could not tell nor was it important. One thing was correct though, LOVE BITES came across as a retreat into the values we all know, the situations we all have encountered - the kind we tend to forget every now and then in the repetitive humdrum of everyday life. In short, it was a breath of fresh air.

Paring down to the basics of the subject matter and concentrating on the essentials was the overarching strategy that formed the backbone of the play's conception. Focusing the lens of reality sharply and starkly on Love, we were made to see it for what it was. It would have been easy to dismiss LOVE BITES as being a series of sketches with no visible thread running through it. That would be true but it would also have neglected the fact that its inherent simplicity was its most powerful weapon. Reducing the extraneous and condensing the obvious into vignettes making one point after another, there was no need to guess what was being said. With Love itself being the complicated thing that it is, avoiding the need to guess was a good idea.

>>'LOVE BITES came across as a retreat into the values we all know, the situations we all have encountered'

Of course, it helped that the individual skits were marvellously written and funny to boot. In this, credit must surely go to the director for selecting the pieces that he selected and placing them in the way that he placed them. This was because I had assumed that one writer had penned the entire play. The programme revealed however that the play was assembled from the short works of a number of different writers. To collect them in this manner and amplify the potential in each individual piece through the construction of the play's structure was truly an ingenious thing. This was a structure that felt purposefully built for the play, in the way that it suited its themes. By accessing the different aspects of love, we see the same thing, and yet not the same thing at the same time. This universality was inherent in its non-specific characters and scenarios.

The only visible way by which the structure conformed to any time-line was the tracing of a path through the inevitable arc of a relationship in chronological order. From the pick up lines, to the getting to know you conversations, to the comfortable stage, to the final deterioration and break up. It was all there. However, to individually describe the variety of scenarios shown would be overkill for this review, for the mood ranged from the surreal ('Sure Thing'), to the mundane, to the futuristic ('Conversations 2020'). There was also a nice parallel that was evident in the back-to-back sketches about the "apple" and "going to the cinema". Some of the realisations that were made were also interesting. "What is communication?" for example or "Are couples merely familiar strangers?" or "Are familiar couples merely talking to themselves?"

The inclusion of pianist Karen Lim on the stage helped underscore some of the action as well as providing a useful cue for scene changes. The un-obtrusive underlining of the prevailing mood was more important in the second half of the play where the pace of the action matched the music. Overall, it was a nice touch.

In all this of course, I expected a final solution that would prevent the inevitable progression of these events in a relationship. In the end, I should not have been so naive. Though the play's final solution was not as fulfilling as I would have wanted it to be, it was real. There is a ring of truth to the statement that love's motivations cannot be explained since "Language is meaningless", but is irritating all the same. Reality, after all, offers no easy solution.

In the end, I would not have been able to see and realise all this had the calibre of the cast been any less than it was. Rarely do we see a production on the Singaporean stage where the entire cast is superb, excellent and thoroughly suited for the parts that they were playing. I expect that every detail of the director's vision was realised in their able hands. All had superb comic timing, physical gestures and presence. Just for the record I'll name them in no particular order, they were Esther Yap, Dick Su, Amanda Mitchell and Rodney Olivero. Congratulations to all of them for delivering truly wonderful performances.

If it is 3.14 Company's intention to specialise in quality adult theatre, then offerings such as LOVE BITES will hopefully give an idea of the good things that can come from them. In this case even though I didn't leave the theatre gushing about the play, I did feel a quiet and subtle appreciation, the kind that told me I was fully satisfied in the end.