Review: Dear Jay by Blue Bean Productions

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December is a period that’s often fraught with big commercial plays and musicals to capitalise on the Christmas spirit. Sometimes you get tired of all that, and need something a little more sincere, honest and heartfelt. And that’s why Dear Jay is a breath of fresh air and one production you should be catching.

Blue Bean Productions’ inaugural production Dear Jay follows Leonard (Benedict Leong), a young man struggling with the untimely death of his beloved friend Jay (Zenda Tan). Written by up and coming playwright Euginia Tan and directed by Hazel Ho, Dear Jay was born from the result of numerous discussions between Euginia and Benedict discussing their shared experiences and painful life chapters.

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The play tackles the difficult subject of mental illness, an affliction often stigmatised by society, both looked down upon and misunderstood by the general public. Main characters Jay and Leonard’s friendship is grown and blossoms during their time spent in mental wards together, each finding solace in the other’s company, loving each other as close friends would and vowing to stick together in both good times and bad, a solidarity that is perhaps unexpected from patients, due to misconceptions in today’s society.

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Euginia Tan’s script is beautiful and well thought out, consisting well-crafted and poetic lines that easily provide food for thought and reflection on how we perceive our lives, and how we relate to the ones we treasure most and people around us. Having previously wowed us with Tuition at the Twenty Something Theatre Festival earlier this year, Dear Jay is a testament to Euginia’s growing maturity and voice despite her young age, and we can’t wait to see how she continues to bring us heartache in her future plays.

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Direction-wise, Hazel Ho’s scene transitions were cleverly done, utilising the ensemble and making full use of their strength to create a chorus of whispers that provided an immersive atmosphere that reflected the echoes in each of the characters’ minds. The set was also beautifully wrought; despite possessing a monochromatic colour scheme, the simple colour scheme is betrayed by webs of white tangled lines in black frames, apt in showcasing the characters’ complicated inner workings amidst an otherwise ordinary exterior.

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Benedict and Zenda played off each others’ energy easily, maintaining great onstage chemistry and really tugging at our heartstrings. Considering their limited theatre experience thus far, we can’t help but compliment them on their perceptive interpretations of Leonard and Jay. In particular, both of them were highly capable of holding the entire audience’s attention, keeping our eyes and ears glued to the performance onstage, with sincere conversations that echoed similar ones we might have heard in real life. At the same time, we would have loved to see a more pronounced flow and rhythm to the performance, which was great, but could have afforded more differentiation in mood, but as this was the opening performance, we are confident it can only improve over the rest of the run. Still , Dear Jay is a promising and commendable first piece for Blue Bean, and we urge you to support these guys for their remaining performances. There is definitely an audience for the work they’re putting out, and consider us won over as fans.

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Dear Jay plays at the Esplanade Studio Theatre and have 3 more shows, a matinee at 3pm on 17 and 18 Dec and a night show at 8pm on 17 Dec. For tickets, email askbluebean@gmail.com or contact Benedict at +65 9880 2122.

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