Commendable performances by four thespians added to the merit of this play adaptation. Photo/Pichamon Changkwanyuen
Commendable performances by four thespians added to the merit of this play adaptation. Photo/Pichamon Changkwanyuen

Brothers and sisters

Art October 15, 2018 01:00

By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to The Nation

9,229 Viewed

Life Theatre delivers with two tradaptations of one contemporary American domestic drama

LAST YEAR, Life Theatre impressed us with the English translation of French playwright Yasmina Reza’s “Life x 3”, although some of us wondered why it was not performed in Thai as most of the audience were indeed Thai. This year, they made sure we didn’t have to read any Thai surtitles with “Rx3”– nothing to do with their previous work—which ended its second run, after the first in June, last Sunday at Blue Box Studio.

Commendable performances by four thespians added to the merit of this play adaptation. Photo/Pichamon Changkwanyuen

Bhanbhassa Dhubtien and Apirak Chaipanha deftly translated a two-hander “Rosemary with Ginger” by Edward Allan Baker and changed its context – a tradaptation approved by the American playwright – into two versions. They are collectively called “Rx3”, referring to the three names of the four characters – Rosemary (Rose), Rocket and Roong. This is thanks in part to the experiments they did in Life Theatre’s workshop called Actor’s Gym. The American original features two sister characters, both straight, and took place in the US. The first Thai version has two gay American brothers, Rosemary and Rocket, in a diner of a small American town; the second two Thai sisters Rose and Roong, at a small bar in U-Tapao, a Thai naval base out of which the Thai navy holds special drills annually with their American counterpart.''

Photo/Pichamon Changkwanyuen

To add to the fun, the order of the two playlets changed from one evening to another, and of course the experience differed – I only wish I had the time to experience both.

Last Saturday, the queer version was presented first and Apirak and Sathasai Ponghirun were credible as brothers. The former added depth and vibrancy to the character we saw him portray in Life Theatre’s “Four Sisters”; the latter was more subtle and more compelling, but that might have been because we haven’t seen him on stage for many years. 

Photo/Pichamon Changkwanyuen

The two are in the diner writing their mother’s bio on an application form for her shopping spree prize and as they do so, the audience discovers that their childhood years with a violent father was every bit as troubled as their adulthood present, with failing marriages, alcoholism, and so forth. Notwithstanding their gayness, the discussion on child custody was also believable. 

Despite the multitude of life problems, the audience laughed at many moments as the play became a dark comedy, thanks in part to Apirak’s characterisation of Rosemary. 

Photo/Pichamon Changkwanyuen

After the 15-minute intermission when some props were moved and others replaced, seasoned actress and singer Narinthorn Na Bangchang portrayed the elder sister of Rasee Diskul Na Ayutthaya, a former supermodel and TV actress making her stage debut here. A two-character play is like a boxing match but Rasee, with much less stage experience, never let her guard down and was at no point upstaged by the veteran, with the result that theatre audiences are now looking forward to her next stage work.

Photo/Pichamon Changkwanyuen

I was in the third row from the stage, without earplugs, and I felt the actors were too loud in some parts, as if they were performing in the much larger M-Theatre nearby. A little less here might have meant the characters coming across as more realistic, rather than theatrical, and allowed for a faster pace.

Photo/Pichamon Changkwanyuen

In both versions, though, the audience was touched by the characters’ stories and moved by their emotions. It didn’t feel like watching the same story twice; rather, it showed that these situations could happen to anyone anywhere. Sexual orientation and location aside, we could empathise with them and learn that in our misery and despite the distance, our one true friend might be our sibling.

More Compelling Drama

Watch out for Life Theatre’s next production, British playwright’s award-winning drama “Closer”.