Caught in a Love Triangle
Pawit Mahasarinand, The Nation
On Box Theatre Group’s revival of “I Love You Guy” delighted audiences when it premiered last November at Raka Café and Love Restaurant on Phra Athit Road as part of the Bangkok Theatre Festival 2007.
Last weekend, the 70-minute, one-act, four-character gay drama/comedy known as “Thirak Khong Kan” in Thai, which is inspired by Hollywood’s hit romantic comedy “My Best Friend’s Wedding”, had audiences giggling again. But this time the laughs came from the Crescent Moon Space, a one-year-old intimate venue for small-scale productions in Soi Thong Lor.
In the original production, Aye, the play’s only female character, was trying to sell her café to her friend Kan’s former lover Nai. For ths restaging in a black-box theatre, director Saifah Tantana changed Aye’s business to an art gallery and tastefully decorated the space with colourful paintings, blinds and trendy furniture. His efforts paid off, with audience members transported to another space from the moment they entered. And as the play progressed, such was our absorption that we completely forgot our seats had no back supports and that we were sitting on cushions placed on wooden stands.
Details added to the script also helped to anchor the play’s credibility. For instance, the potential buyer and architect Nai parked his car at a nearby famous supermarket. Then, when Aye went out to buy coffee, leaving old flames Nai and Kan together for the first time in the three years since their break-up, the cups she brought back showed the logo of the well-known American coffee chain with a store next to that supermarket.
The four thespians returned to the roles they first played in November and also helped create in the rehearsal process and were much more polished and convincing than in the drama’s first run. This reviewer’s loudest applause went to Bundith Punsiri for the sincerity in his portrayal of the protagonist Kan, who wants to win Nai back after realizing he made a bad mistake in breaking up with him. It’s this realization that sets up the dramatic tension for the play.
Equally laudable was Athapol Anunthavorasakul as Nai, whose subtlety was thoroughly charming. Watcharapong Kanjanakrit was much improved as Nai’s new boyfriend Tan, thoroughly convincing as a spoiled, foreign-educated rich-kids, although lacking the energy of his fellow cast members.
Unlike their counterparts in many TV soap operas and popular films, the three actors kept well away from stereotypical characterizations, and their emotional expression never dragged the gay love triangle love onto the marshy ground of melodrama.
The plays only actress, August Songkiatthana, never faded from a story that while not actually about her. As Kan’s close friend, August dominated, with a commanding stage presence and commendable sense of comic timing.
Despite having delivered their lines many times before, the four-member ensemble came across as fresh, their interaction always spontaneous. The fact that the actors had themselves improvised these dialogues in rehearsals shone through in the realistic style of their acting. As a result, the situation and their relationships were thoroughly credible and the audience was drawn into the endearing yet frequently comical story. Loud laughter was interspersed with rapt silence, a sure sign of the audience’s full attention.
Much credit is also due to director Saifah, not only for the coaching of his actors but also for successfully gluing the various elements into one unified production. His theatrical know-how breathed new life into the familiar story. At times he had his actors stand behind the blinds while the performance in the main acting area proceeded around them. Thus the audience had the fun of watching the action onstage and “offstage” simultaneously. Then there was the ingenious use of background music – mostly catchy love tunes – which also helped to punctuate different tempos of the play and set the right tone for each scene, without ever sounding like crude emotional cues.
In the end , we were reminded that in all relationships, it’s over when one side calls it quits, and that the other party simply has to accept it and move on – no matter how difficult that might be. Leading one’s life is about making decisions, some of which may not be right and be the cause of regret later on. On Box Theatre Group’s decision to re-stage “I Love You Guy” just after Valentine’s Day though, was definitely the right call for theatregoers.