If the endless chattering of crosstalk (相聲), a form of comedy developed in the Qing Dynasty featuring rapid-fire, complex banter, is a bit too much, Performance Workshop’s (表演工作坊) Crosstalk Travelers (那一夜，在旅途中說相聲) might be just the ticket as the comedy routine takes place on a journey.
The performance premiered to widespread acclaim in March last year and clocked up 50 shows within six months. It will be revived at the National Theater (國家戲劇院) today and tomorrow.
The show is the seventh iteration of the troupe’s trademark crosstalk series, which began with That Night We Performed Crosstalk (那一夜我們說相聲) in 1985.
“Crosstalk and travel have been big parts of my life,” the troupe’s artistic director Stan Lai (賴聲川) told the Taipei Times. “To meld them into one thing was a labor of joy. The cliche ‘life is a journey’ is certainly true. But how to make travel into comedy is a fun challenge.”
Because of his fondness for traveling, several years ago Lai was approached by the United Daily to write travel journals. Turning down that chance because of his hectic schedule, Lai instead wrote this newest work.
“I consider this work Stan’s autobiography,” the show’s lead actor and Comedians Work’s (相聲瓦舍) artistic director Feng Yi-gang (馮翊綱) said. Feng said that previous shows in the series relied on improvisation, but this one was instead written by Lai alone. “It’s the most romantic and personal chapter in the series,” Feng said.
Although the crosstalk series relies heavily on humorous banter, Crosstalk Travelers reveals a solid plotline in seven segments. A materialistic traveler (Feng) and a spiritual passenger (actor Chu Zong-heng (屈中恆)) get stuck on an island where a revolution is breaking out. The two argue about the meaning of life until the revolution comes to a halt and a ship comes to their rescue.
WHAT: Crosstalk Travelers (那一夜，在旅途中說相聲)
WHEN: Today and tomorrow at 7:30pm
WHERE: National Theater (國家戲劇院), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)
ADMISSION: Tickets are NT$500 to NT$3,000, available through NTCH ticketing, online at www.artsticket.com.tw and at 7-Eleven ibon kiosks
ON THE NET: www.pwshop.com
“Comedy is made of laughter and satire,” Feng said. “But humor examines the intrinsic nature of life and that’s what we do here.”
Because of the dialogue in a crosstalk show is between only a few actors, memorizing the script presents a challenge to the performers, and six months have passed since the show’s last production and its revival.
When Feng met up with his co-actor Chu Zong-heng (屈中恆) for rehearsals earlier this month, both were surprised they remembered all the lines.
“It’s such a fantastic script that it stayed with me and grew inside me,” Feng said.