Antares has a rollicking time with HARDY BOYZ N CRAZY GIRLZ
I was introduced to Nell Ng’s family outside The Actors Studio Box. Her brother Joey is reportedly a talented designer (in fact, he did the funky program) and her mum looks really feisty. There goes my pet theory that Nell Ng was beamed down from the same planet where Mork originates (remember “Nanoo Nanoo”?)
In any case, Nell Ng is undoubtedly endowed with high-voltage brains as well as a voluptuous beauty she enjoys spoofing in most of her skits with the Instant Café Theatre. For her directorial debut with TASYDS (The Actors Studio Young Directors Showcase, to the uninitiated), Ms Ng assiduously picked a series of off-beat one-acters by Christopher Durang, Laura Cunningham, Cathy Celesia, and that brilliant fellow, Antares (thereby ensuring her maiden effort an agreeable review, at least on kakiseni.com). And she even wrote one herself: a takeoff on a takeoff of Romeo and Juliet, which went down very well indeed.
The modern-day theatergoer apparently prefers comedy to tragedy, possibly because there’s already enough of that in their own lives. On opening night The Box was full of bums (half of mine was dangling precariously over the edge for the first two items, until I managed to sandwich myself safely between two women on a lower tier). No doubt Hardy Boyz N Crazy Girlz will be packed out throughout its run. Keeping the crowd entertained and making them laugh is a fine art which Nell Ng has got down pat. A regular stint with the Instant Café Theatre is perhaps the best way to hone one’s comedic skills, and Nell has appeared in a lot of ICT revues over the last couple of years.
ICT has also been an excellent training ground for Maya Arissa Abdullah, whose phenomenal talent as an actress has blossomed with amazing swiftness since her debut appearance with the comedy troupe three years ago. She maintained perfect focus in each of her four rôles, and was absolutely awesome (and marvellously feline) in Christopher Durang’s gothic study of domestic psychosis, Naomi in the Living Room. Eddy Mudzaffar and Carina Ong acquitted themselves favorably as her hapless son, John, and his wife, Joanna. They looked terrific as Mr and Mrs Road Runner, though they never once went “Beep-Beep!”
In Anything For You, Cathy Celesia’s simple but well-crafted dialogue between two women who have been best friends for years, Maya’s totally credible Gaik Sim was superbly matched by Farah Alia’s earthy and subtle Kalsom. The two of them were a class act, offsetting the unsubtle antics of a slapstick waiter played by Hadi (who even reminded me a little of Jerry Lewis).
The breezy ‘Radio Gila’ intro (pre-recorded by Ghafir Akbar and Nell Ng) set the manic tone of the production, though it took a while for Eddy and Hadi to get over their initial self-consciousness in Christopher Durang’s The Hardy Boys & The Mystery of Where Babies Come From. Zuraida Zainal Abidin made excellent use of her ample physical assets and evidently enjoyed herself as the nymphomanic Nurse Ratched; but she truly came into her own as Julita in Nell Ng’s endearing Romli & Julita.
When Nell made known her decision to include Lomeo & Juriet – my Manglish “terangslation” of that famous balcony scene from Shakespeare, first dramatized by Tim Evans in Shakespeare for Dummies, with Nell playing Juriet opposite Chris Ng as Lomeo – I was looking forward to finally seeing the piece brought to life on stage. Suffice to say, I wasn’t disappointed. Indeed, I was delighted with the inspired dramaturgic touches she had added (for instance, the took-took-chang effects borrowed from Chinese opera). Carina Ong was exquisitely demure as Juriet Chan and Dicky Cheah utterly suave as Lomeo Ng.
I’ve seen Dicky in countless productions over the decades, usually in bit parts, and of late his acting skills have taken on a patina of professionalism hitherto unobserved. A late bloomer, that Dicky, but a talent well worth the wait to see unfold. He was especially funny in Laura Cunningham’s hysterical Flop Cop – which had Hadi as an out-of-control playwright desperate to inflict his Deadly Dick monologue on an unsuspecting public. As a highly trained officer of the KLAP (Kuala Lumpur Arts Police), Dicky finally realizes he can’t kill the playwright unless he first kills his characters. I thoroughly relished this bit of inspired madness, which was enlivened by a brilliant West Side Story meets X-Files soundtrack.
Nell conceived Romli & Julita as a companion piece to Lomeo & Juriet – a savvy move, as it got maximum mileage out of the laughs generated by the Manglish version. It also reinforced the interethnic goodwill personified by Gaik Sim and Kalsom she had injected in the earlier one-acter by Cathy Celesia. I couldn’t resist comparing her work with that of everybody’s favorite Latok – Malaysia’s cartoonist laureate, Mohd. Nor Khalid aka Lat.
Megat Sharizal’s guitar-toting Romli was a very good match for Zuraida’s cheese-sandwich-junkie Julita. Heaven knows we need more bridges, not more walls. And I guess Malaysians prefer laughter, not tears. Hey, swell job, Nell!
21 June 2002