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To Whom It May Concern

September 3, 2011
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Event: “To Whom It May Concern” by The Finger Players
Venue: Esplanade Theatre Studio
Run: 1st Sept – 4th Sept 2011

“To Whom It May Concern”, a new monologue written and directed by Chong Tze Chien and acted out by Karen Tan, is a quirky little one.

It marks Tze Chien’s first attempt at a monologue, and he has attempted to subvert the genre by portraying the protagonist Lily as an “unreliable narrator” (in his own words), in order to avoid the scenario of the monologue lapsing into the undramatic.

And because the lines separating reality from fantasy are blurred, from the onset we are challenged into deciphering for ourselves which elements are fact and which elements are fiction, just like how one attempts to determine if a certain “Judith Mayo” from Africa is indeed telling the truth about her transfer of wealth or not.

“To Whom” is the fourth and final play in Tze Chien’s new book of plays, and after watching the play I had to go back to read up on the playscript once more just to catch up on all the subtleties in the play that I had missed.

The direction was crisp and clever, and the moment you walk into the Theatre Studio you are greeted with rows upon rows of white chairs all neatly lined up.

(I was kinda reminded of the set during the reading of Claude Girardi and Samantha Scott-Blackhall’s “Twice Removed”, incidentally also featuring Karen Tan, where there were rows and rows of mannequins all neatly lined up on stage as well.)

And as the play progressed, Karen Tan would stick the name labels into the slot in the back of the chairs so as to represent the different characters present in the play.

Hard to describe in detail, but it was all very cleverly conceived.

The only issue I had with the play was that since things started to become more and more fantastical as the play progressed, it was rather difficult for the viewer to stay invested in the proceedings.

I have a faint suspicion that the play started to lose some of its audience by the time it entered its latter half.

In “To Whom”, Karen Tan proves once again that she is worthy of the title of “local theatre’s hardest working actor”.

Not only has she appeared in more productions than anyone else this year (“Family Outing”, “Twice Removed”, “Beauty Kings”, “DNR”, “Model Citizens”) as far as I’m aware, she also gives it her all every time she takes to the stage.

And if the role of “Emily” in Stella Kon’s play is likened to running a marathon, then the physical demands of playing “Lily” plus all the other characters in “To Whom” must be somewhat akin to doing the Ironman, even if the play clocks in at a run time of only about 58 minutes.

“To Whom” may be a play that constantly challenges us to differentiate truth from falsehood, but I think we can be very sure of two things – that Karen Tan has put in a magnificent effort, and that Chong Tze Chien has once again presented us with a cleverly-conceived and directed piece of theatre.

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