Fri, Jun 10, 2005 - Page 15 News List

`My First Wives'delightsand surprises

By Derek Lee  /  STAFF REPORTER

After three years of producing popular stage shows Godot Theatre (果陀劇場) is once again ready to please with another of its thought-provoking works, this time dealing with the theme love and marriage.

Directed by the talented James Liang (梁志民), the versatile leading actor Lee Li-chun (李立群) is challenging himself by playing three different characters in the play, My First Wives (我的大老婆).

Liang has been directing stage plays and musicals since 1988 but has struck up a good relationship with Lee in recent years. The actor has taken leading roles in two of Liang's highly praised stage shows, Love or Dream and the City (2002) (再見女郎) and ART (2003).

They are now working together again after Liang was inspired by the US movie First Wives Club (大老婆俱樂部). It inspired him to come up with a stage show dealing with marital relationships in Taiwan.

Liang thought it would be a good idea for just one actor to play the three cheating husbands in the movie, in order to magnify the comic effect.

The reasoning behind such an arrangement is that "in the relationship between a husband and his wife, a Taiwanese husband tends to think more straightforwardly and simply, whereas a Taiwanese wife acts and reacts in a much more complicated way," according to Margo Jian (簡詩峻), a senior staff member at Godot Theater.

Liang, however, has repeatedly emphasized that it is not his purpose to favor either Taiwanese men or women in his play. Rather, he said, the point was to give audiences the opportunity to reflect on the differences in logic and reasoning between the sexes.

"My real intention," he said, "is to help those females who do not understand men, to get to know them better from now on. Also, I'd like to help those males who long to get closer to their partner."

The focus is on the actors, Lee and the three female characters, played by Kay Huang (黃韻玲), Bebbie Yao (姚黛瑋) and Grace Lu (呂曼茵). There is an unremitting dramatic tension in their relationships and the dialogue is sharp throughout the play.

The story deals with three middle-aged couples. The three wives, who were university classmates, and are facing marriage crises when their husbands are caught out having extra-marital relationships.

The first couple is an aesthetics-professor husband and a publishing-house-editor wife. Their spiritually-minded marriage is shattered when Viagra intrudes into their lives and the professor's physical needs come to light.

The second couple are a small-time movie director and an over-the-hill female movie star. Living under his wife's shadow for many years, the husband finally frees himself from her domineering ways by having relationships with a number of women.

A reformed gangster and his gangster wife are the third couple and the goings-on in their lives make for a sweet-and-sour relationship.

One of the most poignant lines in the play is given by the gangster wife to her depression-stricken husband when she asks,"Didn't we make the promise to grow old together?" She says this after concluding that her husband is afraid of growing old and is therefore fooling around with girls as young as their daughters.

The play comes to a climax when the three cheating husbands are interrogated by their wives. Embarrassing secrets are laid on the table and the women become "judges" who will decide the fate of their "criminal" husbands.

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