What is love? An emotion? A chemical reaction? Can it be enhanced? Forced? Can we… create it? Indeed, these are some of the thoughts that would float through one’s mind as we delve into The Effect, a Pangdemonium production from their Season of Love.
With a drug trial as the backdrop for this narrative about the big L word, we are introduced to Connie Hall, a psychology student played by Nikki Muller, and Tristan Frey, a charming young vagabond played by Linden Furnell, who slowly but surely (and perhaps predictably) involve themselves in a romance during the course of the trial. What really captures the audience’s attention, then, would be the way the concept of love is perceived by these the two young lovers, bringing about multiple perspectives of this weird, lovely, and often confusing feeling. Set against the liminal space of the cold, unfeeling trial rooms, it truly allows us to question and ponder about what exactly is love, and how, how exactly does it come about?
Of course, there is more than meets the eye other apart from the love story. It appears that the clinical Dr. Lorna James (Tan Kheng Hua), the administrator of this trial, has a history of her own: plagued with depression along with episodic breakdowns, we are then introduced to the topic of mental health. Tan’s acting, particularly in the second act, is extremely commendable, and watching her is truly mesmerizing yet frightening at the same time. Mesmerizing as she truly makes the point of view of her character relatable, or at least, understandable, and at the same time, frightening as it isn’t everyday that you get to see the raw reality, the inner dialogue, of someone with depression being played out so vividly on stage.
Indeed, this play tackles some of the more confusing, intangible, issues of our time (with one being especially sensitive, no prizes for guessing which), opening up a dialogue for these topics. In particular, the subject of mental illness is often shrouded in our society, a taboo that is not to be openly discussed and acknowledged as having a reality. The Effect, then, helps to open up a conversation with regards to this issue, and I hope it is not one that will end anytime soon. Thus, I highly encourage you to go and watch The Effect with an open mind, and perhaps you’ll learn a little more about love and mental illness while you’re at it.
Photo Credit: Crispian Chan