Being a “Sukhumvit girl”, I was terrified of traveling all the way to the riverside to watch the “The Lisbon Traviata”, but it turned out to be quite easy to get to the Culture Collective’s theater. After getting off the BTS at Saphan Taksin it was only a 25 baht motorbike ride to Chatrium Residences, and then it’s just up a slightly obscure elevator to the 3rd floor and you’re there. We were pleasantly surprised to find that our tickets included a free glass of wine, which we downed just minutes before it was time to enter the intimate space where the performance took place.
I’m not a theater buff, nor am I an opera expert by any means, and before this evening the name Terrence McNally and his play from the late 1980’s called “The Lisbon Traviata” meant absolutely nothing to me. Yet, all I can hear now are the words “The Lisbon Traviata” on replay in my mind, or rather the voice of Pan Pan Narkprasert as Mendy, repeating those words in a hilariously obnoxious high-pitched tone of desperation.
His manic desire for hearing that one particular performance of the late Maria Callas throughout the first act was fiercely entertaining, and we expected nothing less from Mendy as a full-on Thai drag queen. If you’ve ever been to one of Maggie Choo’s Sunday Gay Nights hosted by the subversively funny Miss Pangina Heals (Pan Pan’s alter-ego) then you’d have one more reason to see the show.
We all know that drag queens have to possess the all important skill of lip syncing and Mendy does a fine job of reminding us why they should stick to just that when she bursts into several mind-splitting operatic vocals. Worry not, you don’t have to know anything about opera to enjoy watching Mendy and Stephen (played by Steven Fry) bickering and obsessing over their shared passion for this archaic form of music that most of us are ignorant of.
In this localised version of the play, Bangkokians and visitors alike can appreciate the frequent references to the city’s iconic points of interest such as MBK. Even if you don’t understand a lick of Thai, you’ll find yourself laughing each time they add a dash of Thai vocabulary into their witty, and wildly amusing dialogue that covers the entire span of act one.
The second act starts off playfully with a jaw dropping nude scene that would leave all of Silom Soi 2 and the desperate housewives of Bangkok quivering indefinitely. Sadly, that light-hearted moment vanished as soon as it appeared as the rest of the show quickly transitioned into a dead serious mood – quite literally, as someone does die in the end.
Stephen finally confronts his boyfriend Mike (played by Steven Ward), who has been growing distant since he’s started seeing the younger, more handsome and exotic Paul (played by David Sef). Tensions are high as the ill-fated lovers find themselves in an excruciatingly uncomfortable situation.
Believe it or not, even with the intense awkwardness and bloody death, this is actually a feel-good kind of a play because you’ll feel pretty damn good about being in a much less dramatic (aka boring) relationship, or maybe you can relate to their problems – in which case, you’ve been duly warned of the consequences. After watching this show, you might just think that being single isn’t so bad after all.
Tickets for “The Lisbon Traviata” are priced at THB 800 per person.
Shows on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 7pm
October 8th – November 15th
Cash Bar opens at 6pm
* No show on the Halloween (October 31st)
For more information and to book tickets please visit: www.culture-collective.com