Alan Ayckbourn belongs to a generation of highly prolific and accomplished British playwrights who seems capable of writing about almost anything with a degree of elegance and sophistication that audiences never seem to tire of. Plays like the perennial repertory favorite Communicating Doors (開錯門中門), show a high level of craftsmanship in both the dialogue and the construction, so that even though the premise is absurd and the substance negligible, it is endlessly revived and has been translated into many languages.
It is no surprise, therefore, that it has proved exceedingly popular in its Chinese adaptation by the Godot Theater (果陀劇場), which first premiered in 1996 and has been brought back on numerous occasions since. Godot, like Ayckbourn, does not aspire to the heights of dramatic genius, but it is a workmanlike group that has successfully staged numerous adaptations from western theater, and while not always achieving the energy and punch of the West End or Broadway, have given Taiwanese audiences access to many modern western dramatic works of which they would otherwise remain ignorant.
Communicating Doors provides plenty of opportunity for screwball comedy, and as the doors of the title allow for time travel across a period of two decades, it is ideal for showcasing the versatility of the cast.
The action takes place in a London five star hotel suite in the year 2024. Poopay has come to "service" the very elderly, sickly client Reese. Reese is not interested in sex but wants Poopay to witness a document in which he confesses to helping to murder his two former wives. He also wants her to take the document to the police.
What: Communicating Doors by Godot Theater
Where: Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, 505 Renai Rd Sec 4, Taipei
When: Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30pm: also next weekend
Tickets: NT$400 to NT$2,000, available through ERA ticketing
The show will also tour Hsinchu (Sept. 1 to Sept. 2), Kaohsiung (Sept. 8) and Tainan (Oct. 13)
Reese has his business partner Julian traveling and caring for him. Julian gets wind of the subterfuge and attempts to kill Poopay to retrieve the secret document since he is implicated in the confession as the killer of the second wife. Poopay escapes through a closet door and finds herself in 2004. She meets the second wife Ruella just before she is about to be killed. The dominatrix finally convinces Ruella of the danger and these two set out to save themselves and warn Reese's first wife Jessica who is in 1984. It sounds confusing, but such is Ayckbourn's skill in putting this intricate structure together, it all manages to jell in a fast paced mayhem of thrills and humor.
As is usual with Godot performances, actors from film and television are often recruited to participate in productions, leading to somewhat uneven quality. In this production, Godot brings together six regulars, including Chen Yu-fang (陳幼芳), who is reprising the role of Ruella for the third time. Veteran actor David Tao (陶大偉) takes the role of Reese, relishing the challenge of playing roles that range from the 70-year-old Reese at the beginning of the play, to a 30-year-old Reese later in the action. Tsai Chamder (蔡燦得), who is best known for appearances in TV soaps, model Chien Shuai-chun (錢帥君) and Shu Tsung-hao (舒宗浩), a Godot regular but primarily a director and scriptwriter for traditional plays, fill out the cast.
Communicating Doors, is well adapted to such a mixed cast, and while much of Ayckbourn's verbal humor is lost, there is plenty of room for improvisation and stage business, something that Godot uses to lend a new gloss to such revivals.