On Box Theatre Group is restaging their latest work "I Love You Guy", one of the surprise hits of Bangkok Theatre Festival. Although we may not have heard their names very often - they are not as prolific as Naked Masks or Theatre 8X8 theatre troupes - "I Love You Guy" (or in Thai, "Thirak Khong Kan") is On Box Theatre Group's fourth work. The troupe leader is a veteran stage actor Saifah Tanthana, whose recent lead performance in "Prasad Taek" drew much kudos.
"Our plays deal with relationship and most have three characters," says Saifah. "Whether it comes out as a comedy or a drama depends on what we're inspired by at that certain period."
The muse for this work is the 1997 romantic comedy film "My Best Friend's Wedding", says Saifah.
"We used the characters and relationship in the film, and put twists on them to make a new story," he says. "For example, in the film, the lead character, performed by Dermot Mulroney, is about to get married to Cameron Diaz's character. In our play, the two male lovers Nai and Tan are just living together. The character Julia Roberts portrayed, which I like very much, is changed to Kan, Nai's ex-boyfriend. The memorable gay character performed by Rupert Everett is Aye, Kan's woman friend.
"In the rehearsal process, I came up with an overall structure of scenes and situations first, worked with the characterisation with each actor, had the four actors improvise the lines accordingly, and then we had a play."
When "I Love You Guy" premiered at the Bangkok Theatre Festival 2007 last November, audiences packed into the second floor of a restaurant and experienced this simple yet sincere, heartfelt, and frequently hilarious gay love story. In the plot, Aye run a restaurant and thus the atmosphere made it feel like a site-specific performance, adding to the realistic style of acting that drew empathy from the audience.
The story's main conflict is between Nai, who now has a new rich boyfriend Tan, and his ex-boyfriend Kan, who still loves Nai. They meet again at a restaurant owned by Aye, Kan's long-time woman. Later, Tan joins them. While Nai wants to run a small business on his own, Tan wants to drag him into his father's hotel empire and to have less struggle and risks. The fact that the old flames Nai and Kan once planned this small enterprise together probably makes Kan feel like he can get back into the relationship with Nai again. The story is funnier for the fact that Aye has never met Nai, and of course Tan, before, and usually voices hilarious comments on this unique love triangle.
The four thespians worked well together as an ensemble. Although they're not professional comedians but part-time actors, their lines and actions drew much laughter.
In this revival, the play has the same original cast. Chulalongkorn University Demonstration School teacher Bundith Punsiri portrays Kan; his former professor at the Faculty of Education Athapol Anunthavorasakul is Nai; businessman Watcharapong Kanjanakrit is Tan; and dance instructor August Songkiatthana performs Aye, the only woman and straight character in the play. August delivered two memorable one-liners: "Come on, cheer up! You're gay: you're not supposed to be desperate" and "Hey, I thought you're gay; what's that poking behind me?"
As the performance venue is now the Crescent Moon Space, the director made adjustments accordingly. "In this version, for example, Aye runs an art gallery, instead of a restaurant," says Saifah.
"A senior director commented [after watching the first run in November] that there should have been more [messages] to the play. She was afraid that many theatre students watching this would be led to believe that one can write a play as simple as this. Well, I don't totally agree with her," Saifah says.
Anyhow, the script has been improved to better convey the messages. "I asked the actors whether they felt anything was lacking in any parts, and they pitched in their ideas. Thus, details have been added.For example, Bundith said that his character Kan would like to say this and that, and so I found certain moments to put them in, while retaining the same story," Saifah says.
While soap operas and films are filled with gay stereotypes in overwrought situations, "I Love You Guy" offers a rare look into the reality of alternative lifestyle. In an era when the stage is dominated by larger-than-life spectacular theatre productions, we can still enjoy life as it really is.
'I Love You Guy' will be performed from February 15 to 17 in the Crescent Moon Space at the Pridi Banomyong Institute on Soi Thong Lor (BTS: Thong Lor). Showtimes are at 7.30pm with additional matinees at 4pm on February 16 and 17. Tickets are Bt200
(Bt150 for students).
For reservations, call (081) 509 0159 or see
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