Fri, Oct 25, 2002 - Page 17 News List

"She" is so funny

Golden Bough Theater has put together a high-octane evening of hilarity with their latest production, `She is So Lovely,' which runs through Sunday afternoon at the National Experimental Theater

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Golden Bow Theater performs She is So Lovely.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CKS CULTURAL CENTER

S teppinginto a rehearsal for Golden Bough Theater's (金枝演社) current production, She is So Lovely (可愛冤仇人), I'm met by a cast member and told that the show's director, Wang Rong-yu (王榮裕) is too busy to talk at the moment. I'm offered a bian dang and a seat, so I sit back and enjoy the proceedings. The hospitality is nonchalant but significant; the troupe aims to do more than just put on a show for their audiences.

In the past decade since it was founded, Golden Bough Theater has made a name for itself by performing everywhere from formal theaters to small-town night markets throughout Taiwan. Their style is marked by a fusion of modern theater elements with traditional Taiwanese opera. She is So Lovely, the company's twelfth full-fledged production, is no different; a combination of popular Taiwanese songs from the 1930s to the 1970s, melodrama and spoofs of popular television shows and Hong Kong action movies for an hour and a half of comedic cabaret.

The story, by Yu Hui-fen (游惠芬), is set in a famous Taiwanese nightclub. Chien-li, a street vendor who falls in love with one of the nightclub's singers, begins a life of crime when his sweetheart falls for a rich patron and flies away to America. Two of the club's headline acts, Chi-chiang and Chou-yen, also fall in love, only to be torn apart by jealousy, then reunited. Others involved include a wealthy young lady who falls in love with Chi-chiang, the man who loves her and a band of "Black Hand" killers. Chien-li, for his part, begins killing indiscriminately, but sheds tears of remorse for each of his victims. If it all sounds confusing, it is. But the plot is not what the show is about.

"It's all lighthearted," Wang later said. "We want audiences to be entertained by the show, not be afraid of it."

Wang should know what's entertaining. He's the son of award-winning Taiwanese television actress Hsieh Yue-hsia (謝月霞), who was invited into early rehearsals to instruct the cast in the movement and form of traditional Taiwanese opera and the comedic style of Taiwan's variety television shows of old.

Audiences may also recognize the set design and marquees by Lee Chun-yang (李俊陽), whose renditions of film posters have long adorned building sides in Hsimenting. Lee's design turns the entire house into something reminiscent of a high-school prom, with heart-shaped balloons hanging from the ceiling and huge red streamers running from candy-colored rococo set pieces, adding to the cabaret feel. Equally splendid, Chen Po-wei's (陳柏維) costume design is a study in kitsch with shirts that look like wallpaper and blouses with which you could cover windows.

Watching a rehearsal with actors dressed in street clothes, however, it's easy to see that it is the cast that makes the show enjoyable. Led by Wu Peng-feng (吳朋奉) in the role of Chien-li and Huang Tsai-yi (黃采儀), as the woman who breaks his heart, She is So Lovely runs on high-octane and never stalls.

"The show is really about the music," Wu says, adding that Chinese, Japanese and Western influences all have helped shape Taiwan's musical canon. "The music has great energy and is so diverse -- love songs, folk songs, rock songs -- it's what energizes the show and makes it appealing to a wide audience."

Before sliding back on stage, Wu introduces me to the company manager, Judy Tseng (曾瑞蘭), who chats me up and answers all my questions. Then it occurs on me: the bian dang, the hospitality, all the performances in small-town night markets, Golden Bough Theater wants to do more than simply perform for an audience, for them, the audience is an inseparable part of the show.

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