“The Last Temptation of Stony – Sleeping Naked aims for the heavens but crashes into the sea”
Reviewer: Alex Foo
Performance: 3 September 2016
I can’t decide what I find most maddening about Sleeping Naked – the didactic dialogue, the tiresome transitions, or just the bizarre injection of Taylor Swift.
Let us start with the script, which seems bent on being a vehement rejection of the ‘show not tell’ dictum. The husband (Michael Cheng), the wife (Eleanor Tan) and the daughter (Eng Kai Er) soliloquize about their dissatisfaction at the start in Alcoholics Anonymous confessional style: I want to slip the surly bonds of earth! I want to sleep with my daddy! I am a sexually frustrated wife! After this comes a series of sanctimonious monologues that double up as a crash course in Gandhi’s dubious spiritual practice for the audience. And let us not forget the god-awful smutty strawberry metaphor for sex.
The painful dialogue is further belabored by a manually-rotated set, which gets rotated one too many times while generic New Age muzak plays. The set might reflect a mandala, time or the circle of life, but it is perhaps most poignant in mirroring the circuitous dialogue, where Leng Leng’s Electra complex and Mei Man’s mounting jealousy and exasperation is repeated at unnecessary length. Credit, however, must be given to Eng Kai Er, whose remarkable physicality and petulance animated the piece.
Unsurprisingly, the husband Stony’s quest for meaning unravels at the end, but his realization of the futility of his obsession is reached abruptly, as if someone just flicked a switch in him. There is some attempt at crafting some character history, including Stony’s absent father and his dreams of a ship, and these memories are resurrected with flimsy and uncentred audiovisuals. Yet are these supposed to stir pathos? It is difficult to emote with him for this presupposed sex versus spirituality struggle is not particularly compelling nor convincing, and thus the tragedy of his self-destruction has little resonance.
The premise of the play is intriguing, and the religious themes, heavy, so with a lot more sensitivity, this could have been a less moralizing and more pensive piece. What this play needs is not a spiritual guru, but a dramaturg.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
SLEEPING NAKED by In Source Theatre
1 – 3 September 2016
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Alex Foo is currently serving his National Service. He’s tried his hand at acting, directing, and now, reviewing.