story | Huang Runchen and Steven Sy, Guest Writers
photo | Cai Lize
University is tough—there’s the ever-present pressure to keep your grades up while still managing what are supposed to be lifelong friendships. The play babies!, which ran at the Black Box Theatre from Mar. 29–31 follows a colorful cast of characters through their distinctly Yale-NUS college experiences, warts and all. Directed by Cheang Chu Ying ’21 and Syafiqah Nabilah ’20 and written by Cheang, babies! tells the heartwarming story of four university students struggling to navigate the waters of adulthood.
The story features four characters: Bree (Yau Yen Ching ’22), Felix (Myle Yan Tay ’19), Ella (Nabilah), and Drew (Andrew Kwan ’20). In typical Yale-NUS fashion, the characters’ relationships are complex and intertwined with one another. Bree and Felix are brother and sister while Bree is dating Drew, and Felix is dating Drew’s best friend Ella. Bree goes through a pregnancy scare and struggles to tell Drew the truth, while Felix and Ella awkwardly maneuver their transition from friendship to love. All the while, Drew and Felix’s enigmatic suitemate Vernon (Casidhe Ng ’22), who has a crush on Ella, goes on a deranged rampage to derail the foursome at every turn.
The actors were skilled and well-cast. Ng had the audience in stitches as the maniacal Vernon, while Nabilah captivated the audience with her role as the slightly air-headed, artistic Ella. Aidan Sim ’20 was memorable for his greasy, over-the-top flirting as the sleazy party guy Shane. The actors dazzled with their dedication and commitment to their roles, fleshing out the characters in a way a script couldn’t do on its own.
The plot, while easy to follow, contained points that felt unnecessary or just didn’t go anywhere, with multiple scenes only tangentially significant to the rest of the plot. A drawn-out scene depicting a suite party introduced a huge cast of characters, but only served as a convoluted way to inject conflict into Felix and Ella’s relationship, and force Drew and Bree to talk. We felt that these goals could have been achieved differently without a complicated scene that confused viewers. It might be argued that these scenes were valuable as self-contained stories in themselves, but with a total run time of two hours, we felt that babies! could have afforded to trim off some scenes.
Moreover, we felt that the way the play resolved its central conflict—Bree’s pregnancy scare—was largely unsatisfying. The play ended with the characters realizing that the “pregnancy test” that Bree took was only a “pee test”. It was an unsatisfying end to the major plot thread, as it didn’t involve the resolution of any character development or major decisions. In other words, it didn’t feel earned.
Most of the dialogue was well-written and reminded us of sitcom dialogue from beloved TV shows like Friends and How I Met Your Mother. The banter did a lot to flesh out the characters and their relationships with one another. For example, the first scene with Felix and Bree did a lot to introduce their brother-sister relationship, which was both affectionate and argumentative at the same time. However, at times, the banter undercut dramatic tension, like what happened with the serious discussion between Bree and Drew about her pregnancy. (Bree, at one point, says “I am… with child!”)
The way these important dialogue scenes played out was also frustrating, as they felt circular and needlessly exaggerated. The scene where Bree finally revealed to Drew that she was pregnant played out like this: Bree tells Drew that she’s pregnant, Drew accepts it and tries to help, then Bree gets angry and brings up her issues with control. Throughout the scene, the audience was left frustrated, as the conflict was already resolved, but Bree seemed to drive the dialogue towards her own problems. When the scene ended, the audience was left wondering why such a long scene lacked the closure to which the plot should be building.
That said, there were some truly golden comedic moments in the play that we thoroughly enjoyed, like Felix’s snarky comebacks to Bree and our beloved student government president dressed as a snail.
babies!, while a little messy and off-kilter at certain points, was enjoyable and heartwarming. Both the direction and writing worked together to drive home the message that although university and adulthood are tough, they are made easier when you have good friends. In the end, babies! sent a message of reassurance: there’s no hurry for us grow up, and there’s nothing wrong with staying babies for now.