Review- The Waiting Room- A Common Collective


By Nikil Inaya
I did not mean to attend this show, let alone write the review, and I confess that this may have been because I did not hear anything at all about the show in the first place: not until the evening of its second and last performance, that is. This was a short run in general so I can appreciate the production being a work-in-progress and moreover, I will critique it as so.
Before that, let me convey my opinion on two things more or less clearly. First of all, one’s reproductive and non-reproductive rights ought solely to be one’s own; and the late slew of anti-abortion laws, legislature and propaganda effective in the United States, and around the world, is so staggeringly backwards that many a reader might find themselves justifiably and simply agape like falcons realising their fetish for bald-eagles in a circle-jerk of vultures. Secondly, and I am aware that many a philistine will pout to hear it, but just because a play engages in heated zeitgeist does not guarantee or instantly grant its status as a brilliant work of art.
The Waiting Room unabashedly tackles serious physiological and psychological implications surrounding the ongoing abortion debate by situating five actors in this eponymous space, all awaiting abortion procedures at a clinic and in the meanwhile recounting to us in sometime-solipsistic verbatim their stories, some of which are based on real-life experiences. Yet in predictable purgatory getup, a trend much too common today, we are trapped with the actors in this waiting room for about an excruciatingly long hour. It takes a certain gravitas to successfully pull this off; it takes a certain gravitas to let the audience in on this wait whilst not disengaging them from sheer boredom.
As it progressed, I noticed around me in progression between audience members more awkwardly tense exchanges and rolls of the eye, more anxiously restless semi-spouts of coughing, more symptoms indicative of the production’s need for more creative development. That being said, it was not a terrible disaster: there were moments of beauty and profundity to reflect on.
Chiefly, I salute the actors for their physicality in the various interpretative movement routines, as for instance in their pre-show tableaux behind the stage gauze. I enjoy that notion of an audience entering the hall to find the actors onstage seemingly readying themselves as in a makeup room, preparing for their show, the very one and the same we see commence as participant observers. I enjoy that notion of storytelling by showing not merely telling. A highlight for me was a concise routine that involved the actors’ solemn union of bodies, coiling a rowboat of solidarity in grief, its many stages and forms, prenatal or otherwise. I enjoy that notion of a script grappling with its postmodernism: its dialogue not merely confined to the limits of one language, one demographic or one narrative.
Nevertheless, while there is potential here, it seems that the pursuit of pandering to one’s audience comes at the expense of any focus on the plot in The Waiting Room. Indeed, not much can be said of the plot and one might even shrug if the question of plot arose. I would describe most of the dialogue as bleak, disconnected monologic banter taking place in some terminal inextricably somewhere: the dialogue seemed to enmesh in itself resulting in a confused miasma of half-forgotten clauses and unforgettable guttural responses.
Character development seems to have been traded off for cheap jokes about char siu and laissez-faire light effect transitions manned in the corner by a giggling Jessy de Borja, director of the ensemble-led production. While I can appreciate the amount of work it takes to put on an original devised work of theatre, and while I can appreciate in theory the notion of a thoroughly collaborative dramaturgical process, in my opinion as it currently stands The Waiting Room lacks cohesive direction.
As it currently stands, the play is at best a formulaic homage to its contemporaries and counterparts in the neoliberal canon, such as James Kirkwood Jr., Nicholas Dante, and Eve Ensler. However, a good premise alone without as much deserved follow-through does not a great play make. I do not condemn the production but urge its players to continue developing the script so that it may one day soon be realised in its full potential. Regardless of the issue at hand, though, we must stay resolved in our strivings for the truth and we must not be swayed by the succour of sensationalism.
Above all, I praise the performance of Davina Lee Carrete whose unrelenting skill as an actor saved this production from itself in its denouement. In these final and most human moments, the most poignant in the show, we see the five women before us at last interact with one another in a completely natural, humbling anticlimactic exchange of Hong Kong chewy candies. Eyes watering all around, I knew then that this was what the long wait had been for.
Thus, I rate The Waiting Room as exactly half a show in my opinion: a 2.5 out of 5 with a lot of promise in the near future should it be further workshopped. Rounding up would be dishonest of me and patronising to you: nobody needs another man ‘splainin’ away or spewing out phoney approval and consolation. I also advise that more attention be placed on the promotion of this production as these are, without a doubt, stories of vital import that need proper telling.
This production has now closed 

Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 2.5


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