An absurdist storm of buzzwords and punchlines that feels birthed straight from the mouth of a millenial social media influenza.
In Kenneth Chia and Mitchell Fang’s new play One Thousand Millennials Crying, we’re given an opportunity to observe millennials in their natural habitat; too poor to go out drinking, a group of friends gather for a Halloween house party with homemade mixes and share their fears of the future. There’s unemployed graduate and host Steven (Matthew Fam), ah lian social media influencer Georgina (Tan Rui Shan) and her assistant Mei Xing (Deonn Yang), and lovey-dovey pan-Asian couple Kuan Wei (Sam Jomato) and Deanna (Shafiqhah Efandi).
With Steven’s high-flying single mother (Chng Xin Xuan) off for a company function, the party quickly devolves into sad-drunk banter amongst each other, each one catty with claws outstretched and a witty comeback or comment dripping with sarcasm always at the ready. The punchlines come hard and fast, and though they don’t always work for everyone, there were at least one or two the mostly millennial audience caught and laughed heartily at (our personal favourite was ‘ah lians are now considered a subculture!’). One imagines that to members of the generations before them, much of the script might sound closer to a foreign language than English, with millennial jargon tossed around at high speed. It’s familiar conversation to anyone from this generation, with occasional lines that ring true and hit hard, and it’s obvious Kenneth and Mitchell have written a play for the here and now.
But in watching these relatable conversations, one wonders what is the end game at hand. The storm of buzzwords, over-the-top clothes by MASH-UP and exaggerated behaviour is fun enough to watch, but it is this pastel veneer of ‘millenial-isms’ that obfuscates its meaning and ultimately leaves us dissatisfied. This works for the farcical elements of the show, particularly with Tan Rui Shan’s spot on interpretation of her social media influencer character, but leaves the show lacking in heart and sincerity. This is most obvious at the end of the night, when Steven and his mother attempt to connect and bridge their generational gap, and it is an act that feels contrived rather than natural. One wishes that Chng Xin Xuan in particular, who shone and showed huge potential for greater nuance in her character despite her short time onstage, was utilised more and to a greater extent than simply bookending the play.
One Thousand Millennials Crying has plenty of material to be mined and has the potential to go far deeper than scratching at the surface of the millennial condition if further developed and honed. But for now, this work in progress is still enjoyable, thanks its energetic cast members who are more than willing to revel in the mad world that Kenneth and Mitchell have constructed for them, dancing through that millennial life one step at a time.
Photo Credit: Lenne Chai and Kenneth Chia