Two shows offer acid tips on how to kill time and say "I love you"

Local comedians are rarely competent at turning jokes into something deeper. Slapstick humor is rampant, but while it frequently makes audiences laugh it never touches the heart. Seeing the far from austere set for 《不眠優伶》(Sleepless Potatoes),on which rested a whimsically cute house and a huge bed, I could not held worrying that Sleepless Potatoes was another stand-up comedy show succumbing to slapstick humor.

The show began with 彭秀慧 (Kearen Pang) doing a monologue about being an insomniac. Sitting in darkness in the house, Pang could only be seen in silhouette and her voice had been altered by a voice changer. The silhouette and the changed voice were reminiscent of television interviews with, say, drug addicts who want their identities concealed, and it gave the humorous somehow ashamed of their condition.

Having warmed up the audience nicely, Pang and her partner, 茜利妹 (Hyperbitch), began to tell various stories about sleeplessness. Hyperbitch made fun of people sleeping on public transport, bringing out the theme that Hong Kong people never have enough sleep. As a radio host, Hyperbitch is known for her versatility, and while she displayed her usual wit in Sleepless Potatoes, she failed to deliver any surprises.

Initially, Pang seemed to strain to keep up with Hyperbitch in their dialogues. It was not until she told a joke about people mistaking a passenger's red plastic pipe for a handrail, and won a roar of laughter from the audience, that she began to relax and tell jokes with confidence.

The performers' witty observations on life were amusing, yet they did not touch the heart of the audience. But as the show went on, Pang and Hyperbitch talked more about feelings rather than simply making observations, and the show got more philosophical than humorous.

In one scene, Pang acted tough and said "sleepless potatoes", who are 唔怕黑,唔怕靜,唔怕一個人 (not afraid of darkness, not afraid of silence, and not afraid of being alone), are actually not pitiful because they often enjoy quiet sleepless nights. But then she began to talk about the different reasons for insomnia —— for example, women suffering for love —— and explored the solitude of the insomniac. It was at this point the show revealed itself as not simply an exercise in humour, but also an exploration of the loneliness and sense of insecurity women can experience.

The show reached its emotional climax when Pang and Hyperbitch each delivered a monologue. Hyperbitch shared with the audience s story about why she began to suffer from insomnia. As a girl she had no trouble sleeping, but that changed one night when she was awoken by the sound of her mother weeping. She witnessed a fight between her parents. When he fight between her parents. When the fight was finally settled, Hyperbitch went to bed again, but she could not sleep. She was worried that something bad would happen when she was asleep, and that was the beginning of her insomnia. As she related this story, Hyperbitch lost all her usual skittishness. She was absorbed in the story and the performance was impressive.

Pang followed with a story about how, while living alone, she had fought a flood in her house during a rainstorm. She could not stem the flow of water, so eventually decided she could live with it until morning and went to sleep. She dreamed she was swimming in the middle of the sea, and gradually realized she had to keep on and on swimming or she would drown. Pang's story was more down- to-earth, yet it sparked deeper thoughts about the meaning of life.

Sleepless Potatoes ended with a scene in which Hyperbitch and Pang were trying to come up with ideas for a stand-up comedy show. They rented a hotel room and planned to stay awake all night to get things done. Yet, though they restlessly moved here and there, pacing the hotel room, they never seriously started heir work. In the end they accomplished almost nothing, finally falling asleep exhausted at dawn.

I considered this the best part of the show, and left it explained beyond words why women refuse to sleep —— not because they do not have the time, but because they are afraid that their youth will silently slip away when they are asleep. They expect interesting things in life to happen any time and do not want to miss out on anything. Alone and awake at midnight, women are simply waiting for the unknown future to unfold itself. For me, the way Sleepless Potatoes unveiled the inner thoughts of insomniac women was more melancholic than hilarious. I treasure tears as much as laughter.

And I laughed until I cried as I watched the one-man play《死佬日記》(Caveman), in which 歐錦棠 (Stephen Au) analyzed what he feels is behind the gap between the genders. In the course of explaining the fundamental differences between men and women, he was also trying to defend men against the accusation from women that "all men are assholes".

Adapted from the play by American comedian Rob Becker the Cantonese version of Caveman had been wittily translated. In an extended monologue, Au spoke of his daily observations about the differences between men and women. Some, such as how women love to talk while men love to be silent, and women love shopping while men do not, are far from original. Yet, listening to Au, the audience had a chance to withdraw from their roles as lovers and look at the gender gap from a third-person's point of view. Looking at the opposite sex in a different light and from a distance, the annoying qualities of the opposite gender in daily life become not only bearable but also amusing, and the theater echoed with laughter throughout.

The play attributes the differences between men and women to primal principles. Men are evolved from cavemen who were hunters, and so are more ready to focus on their prey. Women evolved from cavewomen who were gatherers and so allow their focus to wander. Over the years, men and women have become used to their own modes of living, and this has resulted in the differences between them in various aspects as scientific fact in the play, apparently convincing audience members that it was natural foe men and women to differ.

Au was entertaining and energetic throughout. For most of the show, he portrayed outrage at women's misunderstandings about men. He teased women as being indecisive and mocked their feminine gestures. Yet towards the end of the play, Au's character told a surprisingly sentimental story about how his brother-in-law tried to knock down a wall in his flat to fit in a huge desk he had bought for his as-yet-unborn son. Knocking down the wall was the man's way of saying "I love you", but, like many men, he had been hiding his tenderness and love behind a "manly" exterior. Au ended the show by vowing that all men want to do is protect women and concluded therefore that "men are not assholes".

The thoughts on the gender gap expressed in Caveman were not ground-breaking, but perhaps they were inspiring enough to make us remember that it's the very differences between the sexes that sparks our fascination with each other.

-- 以上內容來自2008年9月 瞄 muse 吊嗓子 voices--

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