Playwright, director and actor Nophand Boonyai makes a clever comeback with a sophisticated dark comedy
Last Monday evening, less than two days after returning from a two-week working trip to Lyon and Belgrade, I discovered an effective cure for jetlag at the K-Bank Siam Pic-Ganesha Centre of Performing Arts. It’s not called a triple espresso, but a triply delightful comedy titled “Happy New Year, Mr Smith”.
In the first scene of this play, with the light only coming from his notebook, we saw Run, a scriptwriter in his late 30s, performed by Nophand himself, in his T-shirt and underpants working on a script. Just like in many of his previous works, that role is partly autobiographical, perhaps even more so in this case as during his two years away from the stage, Nophand has indeed been busy writing TV scripts.
Also like in his previous works, the audience enjoyed a break from realism from time to time. In these segments, two lead characters from Run’s soap opera, performed by stage managers who later changed into other costumes and portrayed other minor roles, not only acted out a short scene but also argued with him.
Recently divorced, Run has been living at his best friend Mu’s,apartment. Mu, whose sexual preferences are doubtful, is a TV sitcom superstar famous for one hand gesture he uses frequently on screen. The two, along with another friend Baem, are about to go to the wedding reception of Baem’s brother. Baem herself, in and out of her relationship with a foreign boyfriend, doesn’t seem to want to get married anytime soon.
That said, the playwright has crafted his three main characters with enough commonalities and differences for this comedy to roll along. The play even turned more comical when, from the condominium window, the three friends witnessed elderly Hong Kong expat Mr. Smith living alone, singing and dancing to Mariah Carey’s songs. And yet when he appeared to attempt suicide, they closed the curtains, only to encounter his spirit and learn from his life and death shortly afterwards. Suphasawatt Purnaveja and Pattarasuda Anuman Rajadhon, respectively, portray Mu and Baem and, thanks in part to their previous experience working in Nophand’s plays, they are up to the quick pace of Nophand’s comedy, while never sacrificing their sincerity in acting. And while we’d love to see Nophand in another character that’s far different from his normal self, we have to also admit that we’ve missed his style of acting, which is highlighted by frequent deadpan facial expressions. Silpathorn artist Nikorn Saetang’s title character is another acting highlight, and his gibberish Cantonese is truly hilarious.
The set only features three chairs, a table and a standing mirror, and yet, with the director’s and the lighting designer’s prowess, our imagination frequently takes us into and out of the living room of Mu’s condominium. And that’s partly why we love going to theatre – to see what what’s beyond the stage, and life.
There’s a moment in this 105-minute play, which is neither one minute too long nor too short, in which the three friends recount what they, when they were much younger, had aspired or planned to do with their lives at certain ages. Tears came to my eyes at this point, and not because of jetlag exhaustion. In the end, this life-affirming comedy reminds us that life is neither plannable nor predictable and that we should simply enjoy it as it is. More importantly, we should also make the most of it while we can.
MORE THAN LAUGHS
- “Happy New Year, Mr. Smith” continues today and tomorrow and Friday to October 18 at 8pm at The Studio, K-Bank Siam Pic-Ganesha Centre of Performing Arts, on the 7th floor of Siam Square One (BTS Siam, Exit 4).
- It’s in Thai with no English surtitles.
- For ticket information and reservations, call (081) 852 1641.