>ON MECURY'S WINGS by TheatreWorks

>reviewed by ng joo kim

>date: 23 sep 1999
>time: 8pm
>venue: the drama centre
>rating: **

>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.


The endless stretch of Medaline Tan's shapely legs… the sight of her curvaceous body sheathed in the fashionable shades of metallic black and gun-metal grey… a banana with a condom loped over it… virtual sex in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) chatrooms visually represented by bodies gyrating to thumping music… an office Beng who derives his cheap thrills from looking at couples make out in the carpark opposite his office block… These are but a few of the titillating sights offered by ON MERCURY'S WINGS. Helmed by various big names, ON MECURY'S WINGS is directed by Casey Lim (Assistant Director of 'Beauty World' - both the 1998 President's Star Charity and stage version). Award-winning playwright Tan Mei Ching is responsible for the script, while Medaline Tan (of Glenn Goei's 'Forever Fever Fame') and Wong Phin Yen (Power 98 FM deejay) play the leads CC and Jad respectively.

Set in the department of a large company, ON MERCURY'S WINGS seeks to explore the characters' sense of self, the effect of social expectation on the individual, office politics and the IRC and its seductive promise to liberate the characters from the expectations, pressures and responsibilities of their "real-world" existence. Responding to its bait saucily communicated by the office babe CC is the morally upright, repressed Jad who just wishes to be left alone to do his job well.

>>'The visual sparseness of play only had the unfortunate effect of highlighting the paper-thin plot and the trite dialogue. '

As things would have it, the other characters in the department will not let him. The seductive CC taunts him with the possibility of meeting up with her and of adopting a different persona in the IRC chatrooms so that he may break away from the overwhelming shackles of society. Johnny, the obnoxious resident "Beng" in the office, gives him no peace by either encouraging Jad to participate along with him in his voyeuristic exercise of peeping, from the office window, at couples making out, or to assist him in his puerile attempts to woo CC.

Medaline indisputably stole the show with her sheer presence. Phin Yen managed to communicate the angst felt by his character without making him seem pathetic. Kudos to the both of them for rescuing their respective characters from banality by portraying them with great aplomb. Unfortunately, sheer bravado alone cannot prevent their descent to being nothing more than mere caricatures.

The entire cast is dressed in silver and gunmetal grey. The set is similarly sparse with the bare essentials that make up the office that the play is set in. This had the interesting effect of making the audience focus on the acting, dialogue and plot. Had the dialogue been more nuanced, and the characters more than mere caricatures, I would have been grateful for this lack of visual distraction. However, the visual sparseness of play only had the unfortunate effect of highlighting the paper-thin plot and the trite dialogue.

There are one too many scenes of Henry, the lecherous boss, and Johnny the Ah Beng panting lustily after CC. Autocratic Henry's tirades against his staff in Hokkien-accented English were also repeated one time too many. Despite its promise of exploring the issues that cyberspace throws up in the context of office relationships, nothing apart from the contradictions and similarities of "real-life" and "cyberspace" personas and experiences was brought up. Though good for a few laughs that the risqué jokes provide, the lack of intelligent dialogue and plot development - despite the great promise that the relationship between IRC and office politics holds - can leave one wondering if one has been taken on a ride ON MERCURY'S WINGS.