On the night of the 28th of November 2013, I had the chance of watch some of the third year Lasalle theatre students produce and perform Michael Christofer’s “The Shadow Box”. Despite having very little knowledge of the play itself, I thoroughly enjoyed the play and was kept engaged throughout. “The Shadow Box” revolves around three main terminally ill characters, Joe, Felicity and Agnes, who had to deal with the fact of not being able to live much longer. It also involves their family and friends facing the inevitable death of their loved one.
The play addresses the theme of death and the idea of seizing the day and living life to its’ fullest, otherwise known as ‘Carpe Diem’. Keeping within the genre of realism, the play uses dark comedy to emphasize and enhance the message of the play – ‘to grab onto life and live it with all your might’. The play was held in the Creative Cube and the space was set up with blocks of different heights, distinguishing the three individual spaces, as well as a void-like segment placed center up-stage. The space showed the cottages of Joe’s, Brian’s and Felicity’s, from stage left to stage right respectively.
The void-like space had a swivel chair with a spotlight on it. During the play, the different characters had a chance to sit on the chair and discuss their current situations with numerous voices that encouraged each of them to express their emotions. This gave the audience an insight into their personal feelings and thoughts of their condition. Even though the set was not exactly the most extravagant, it had basic set pieces such as a couch and a table that made it unambiguous to the audience that the play was set in their cottages.
I felt that the set was enough to inform he audience of where the play was set in and what really mattered was the content and acting of the play. What had kept me engaged was how strong the relationships between the characters were and how I as an audience member could so clearly see each character’s development throughout the play. I could actually see how each character grew from being almost angry and confused of their inevitable death, to growing to accept it.
The show began with Jordan Prainito, who played Joe, walking into a void and being questioned by several voices about his family and his daily routine ever since he began living at the cottage. It wasn’t made clear to the audience who exactly the voices belonged to, however I got an impression that they were doctors and it seemed as if it was a daily or weekly routine to talk to these voices. The other characters underwent the same thing and as I have mentioned before, it gave us an insight into their personal emotions and their opinions of the whole situation.
The relationships between the different characters were so well established that made the play extremely captivating to watch as you could also see the personal struggle of each character slowly losing a loved one. My favourite relationship established within the play would have to be between Felicity and Agnes, played by Rachel Tay and Samantha Jean Kwok respectively. They played a mother-daughter relationship where the daughter, Agnes, had to take care of her terminally ill mother who seemed to have a side condition of dementia.
You could see how patient Agnes had to be with Felicity, and how she had to remind her mother of basic things, such as the date and time, to slightly more serious things, such as who Agnes was, as Felicity had a mindset that her other daughter, Claire, was still alive and was taking care of Felicity instead and not Agnes. My favourite character would be Beverly, who was played by Chinie Concepcion. She was acting as Mark’s ex girlfriend, who was the terminally ill patient in cottage #2. Mark, played by Renfred Ng also had a gay partner, Brian, played by Brett Khao.
Together, Beverly and Brian fought and worked together to overcome their fear of losing a loved one so soon. As they had contrasting personalities, Beverly’s being loose and carefree, whereas Brian was rigid and uptight, this created an interesting segment to watch on how the two had to work together for Mark’s sake. Chinie Concepcion brought so much life to her character and did a really good job of portraying her character as the ‘life of the party’, or rather life in general (She also rocked her sparkly 6 inch heels throughout the whole show).
Each relationship played throughout the show was kept real, distinct and extremely powerful. It made me feel almost connected to the characters who had to face the expected death of their loved ones. I especially felt this from the relationship between Stevie, played by Kimberly Chan and her father Joe. As we saw the first meeting between Stevie and her father, you could almost feel her excitement and joy bouncing around the whole space. This was seen through her facial expressions and eagerness to make him proud through her songs played on the guitar.
However, she had not known of his coming death and it was the biggest bomb dropped throughout the whole show. As each relationship and character had their good points, it made the show enjoyable and engaging. Thus, I felt that the third year Lasalle students did Michael Christofer proud as making this the Singapore premier of ‘The Shadow Box’. Everyone should definitely take some time off to catch the play, it was extremely moving and thought-provoking as well as it made me think about really living life to it’s fullest and how true the expression ‘Carpe Diem’ was.