6 DECEMBER 2014
Even before opening night on Thursday, Like Me. I Like provided Singapore with some pretty gripping drama. First came the news that MP and social media celebrity Baey Yam Keng would be playing the lead – a wonderfully ironic choice, given that the character was a selfie-obsessed loner.
Then, on Monday, Baey announced on Facebook that he had been hospitalised for dengue fever – an event that could have jeopardised the entire production. To his great credit, he mustered the strength to return to the stage just in time for the show.
Yet after all that excitement, the experience of actually watching this play is anticlimactic. It is not, after all, an ambitious work. Instead, director-playwright Lim Hai Yen has crafted it as a feel-good Mandarin comedy about love in the age of cellphone addiction.
The story takes place in a zany advertising firm. Copywriter Wenyao (Baey) shuns human interaction, preferring the comfort of his cellphone apps. He is, however, smitten with his colleague Zifen (Foong Wai See), though he can only express his feelings to her through text messages.
Meanwhile, their co-worker Jerry (Kyris Ang) struggles with how his very animated friend Ben (Chung Kun Wah) makes long-winded calls to him every night. The PA (Jenny Chua) makes her pet hamster an official employee and wages a war on excessive cellphone use.
This multitude of subplots provides some entertaining moments. But, it also results in a slow, unfocussed play. Characters remain so two-dimensional that it is difficult to root for them – especially Wenyao, who is infuriatingly passive in his relationship.
Lim’s sense of humour is similarly misguided at times. Her play opens with a series of clichéd acronym jokes about local institutions – NMP stands for “No More Phones”; NSP means “No Selfies, Please” – yet does not use them for any political commentary whatsoever. She also has her characters scold a public address system for repeating a fire warning in Malay as well as English and Mandarin – a case of borderline racism.
Perhaps one should praise the stylish minimalism of the set and wardrobe designs, and the beautiful songs performed live by Aaron Matthew Lim. This reviewer, however, finds that such gorgeous touches make the script’s flaws all the more obvious.
Lim has created charming, adventurous productions in the past, such as Game Play and TKK. Undoubtedly, she will do so again. This piece, however, will not be counted among her triumphs. It takes more than star quality to make a play succeed.