Review: The Way We Go

Life is a rocky journey. Even with age and wisdom, none of us are guaranteed to unravel life’s many uncertainties. What about love? What exactly does it mean? Why do humans seek to share a piece of themselves with one another, even when it isn’t always peaches and cream?

Checkpoint Theatre’s latest offering, The Way We Go (TWWG), is a poignant tale that tries to answer the questions above. Written by Joel Tan, it follows the story of Agatha Mao (LA-based Lydia Look), former principal of the fictional Convent of Our Lady of Lourdes and her most ardent lovers: Edmund Gomez (Patrick Teoh), her intellectual partner and Violet Chan (Neo Swee Lin), her best friend and fellow teacher. Later introduced in the play are Mao’s former students, Gillian Koh (Chng Xin Xuan) and Lee-Ying (Julie Wee), who share a strained relationship.

The Way We Go

The plot unfolds through a series of flashbacks, played out in the deliberate all-white stage.

“We wanted to show time and space being permeable…a place where memories overlap and come to you. They dissipate. Some things come into focus, others don’t,” said Claire Wong, producer and director of TWWG. “We also wanted a space where the characters really popped out.”

This isn’t a production that brings the bells and whistles with shiny costumes, bright lights and majestic props. Instead, it’s a story of genuine conversation, underscored by wit and honesty.

The cast’s brilliant acting is a draw factor. By the middle of the play, there was nary a dry eye in the theater.

Edmund Gomez (Patrick Teoh) and Agatha Mao (Lydia Look)

The relationship between lead character Agatha, and the oft-magniloquent Edward, sends a powerful reminder: age, on the contrary, does not always add wisdom and maturity to a relationship. Agatha and Edward, despite well into their 50s, are prone to petty squabbles.

Agatha Mao (Lydia Look) and Violet Chan (Neo Swee Lin)

Veteran theater actress (also our well-loved Ahma in Phua Chu Kang) Neo’s character is reminiscent of that 1 friend or relative who fervently believes in love and marital bliss, and can’t wait to wed everyone off. Having won the Best Supporting Actress at the 2010 Life! Theatre Awards and also Best Actor at the BOH Cameronian Awards last year, she once again demonstrates her prowess on stage. It is exactly this conviction towards marriage that had us chortling when her 56 year old Violet got cold feet at the wedding after waiting ironically for half a lifetime for that perfect one.

In an interview with TODAY, playwright Tan revealed his fascination towards human conversation and how he enjoyed writing about them.

“Someone comes along and tries to share you with yourself, and you worry you’ll lose it altogether,” said Edmund. And then he chokes.

Lee-Ying (Julie Wee) and Gillian Koh (Chng Xin Xuan)

It took this writer a while to understand the character arc between Gillian and Lee. Acting like any other couple (fingers interlocked, warm embraces, hearty laughs, occasional tiffs), their motive in the play isn’t immediately clear. Then the realization strikes you like how a match catches fire – Gillian and Lee are just like any other couple on the street. Most of society tends to view same-sex relationships through a microscope, picking them apart and beating dead horses with their discussions. But they, like any of us, love just as passionately. Love is love is love, as some would say.

For taking us through the different stages of life and love in 90 minutes, TWWG was like eating a chocolate potpie. Once you peel off the crusty exterior, what greets you is a bittersweet inside.