Room 648: Five Star Farce

MUCTG’s production of Room 648 takes on an adaptation of Ray Cooney’s 1990 British farce Out of Order. A simple affair between a government official and a secretary from the opposition grows more and more complicated with the appearance of spouses, the hotel manager, a nosy concierge and a corpse. This already complex plot is further convoluted by intricate set and props, physical comedy and constant costume changes, and yet, extremely impressively, CTG pulls off the show without a hitch.

Crucial to the success of a farce is the cast, who must be on the ball with comic timing and energy throughout the play. The cast of Room 648 does just this, maintaining tremendous focus, animation and drive over the play’s almost three hour running time. Comedic lines were consistently well timed, and the physical comedy was executed extremely well by all cast members. Zihan Lin and Qingyang Qin, as Vicky and Follower Good respectively, had an excellent dynamic and played off each other well. Peng Yang played Yee Luo with energy and dediction, bringing constant laughs without being excessive. Ultimately, however, the real star of the show was Yuan Lu as the interfering, inefficient and yet desperate to please concierge 18408. In his delivery, comic timing and facial expressions, Lu’s mere presence on stage became enough to elicit laughs from the audience.

The set design, by Wency Han, was solid, although fell a bit short of the five-star hotel it was meant to portray. Nonetheless, certain aspects worked very well, including the various entrances to the main stage. The balcony in particular was well constructed and functioned effectively throughout the play. It was the prop design, led by Zhi Zena Wang, which really shone. The production relied heavily on props, with a slamming window and a constantly re-opening door being central to the play’s action. Furthermore, the use of props was extremely clever, often used for foreshadowing later events or giving clues to help the audience piece together the mystery. Despite the large possibility for error here, the props’ execution was without fault. This achievement was central to the play’s success, and due credit must be given to the props team.

Lighting design, by Bauhinia Lam, was generally effective. At several points during the production, the lighting played a crucial role in comedic moments, with its over-the-top playfulness adding to the play’s farcical nature. There were some moments where the constant lighting changes came across as a bit excessive or contrived, and perhaps would have been more effective had more restraint been exercised. Nonetheless, on the whole the lighting supplemented the play’s comedy. Hedy Sang’s costume design was also very well done, with detailed costumes well suited to each character. A high number of costume changes occurred during the show which were well accounted for and occurred without any problems.

Finally, credit must be given to director Yan Zhao. Room 648 was a highly detailed and complicated production, both onstage and behind the scenes. With fast-paced dialogue, physical comedy, constant costume changes and a heavy reliance on props, Zhao has done an exceptional job in coordinating the show. No part of the show felt unnatural, with even the most strenuous dialogue and movement coming across as simultaneously genuine and farcical.

Room 648 is a detailed and extremely well executed production. With stellar direction, a dedicated and talented cast, and impressively executed comedy, Room 648 is guaranteed to entertain all audiences.

Matilda Millar-Carton

MUCTG’s production of Room 648 ran from the 18th-20th of May at the Union House Theatre.

 

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