After dinner, Bell and I went to watch 《那一夜，在旅途中说相声》 (Crosstalk Travellers). Crosstalk Travellers was the latest in Stan Lai’s crosstalk series. This series began in 1985 with 《那一夜，我们说相声》 (That Evening, We Performed Crosstalk). After its success, Stan Lai would produce a new crosstalk play every four or five years.
We did wonder how entertaining could it be when the whole play seemed to only consist of two actors but in the end, we decided to put our trust in the director and the actors. We have watched two other plays by Stan Lai and enjoyed them tremendously. We also knew the actors were experienced veterans who knew how to entertain an audience. So the quality of the play should be quite good.
The story was about two travellers who were marooned on a tropical island because of a rebellion. Their names were a play on the words for “traveller” and “passenger”. Lu Ren (played by Feng Yi Gang) was a successful businessman who only stayed in luxury hotels. Cheng Ke (played by Qu Zhong Heng) was a backpack traveller who was in search of the meaning of life. Together with the two men was the Versatile Waitress (played by Xie Ying Xuan) who worked at the resort. She was am islander who had worked in Taiwan for a few years so she could speak Mandarin with a heavy accent.
The play was in seven acts with each act in a different part of the 6-star resort Lu Ren was staying in. Even though there was a rebellion going on at the island, the resort seemed to be untouched by chaos or violence. Lu Ren and Cheng Ke still spent idyllic days lounging at the beach. The only reminder of the rebellion (until the second half of the play) was the lack of food supplies.
Each act mainly consisted of Lu Ren and Cheng Ke recounting their travel adventures while the Versatile Waitress would sometimes appear to confuse and frustrate the two men. Her lines were often funny; sometimes they felt a little bimbotic but there seemed to be a grain of underlying truth if you cared to probe deeper. There also seemed to be some insider jokes in the play. I felt there was a reference to one of Stan Lai’s famous plays, Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, while Bell felt that there could be a insider joke about a famous Taiwanese celebrity.
I enjoyed the play and it was funny. I kept laughing in the first half of the play but it started to get more serious in the second half as Lu Ren and Cheng Ke began to reveal their real reasons for travelling. The audience realized that despite their different backgrounds, both men were using travelling as a form of escape. The background also changed to reflect to somber mood. Acts 1 to 4 were in the open-air resort with blue skies and the beach as the backdrop while Acts 5 and 6 were respectively in a dark storeroom and on a golf buggy travelling through the forest in the dark night to goodness knows where. In the last act, the two men ended up once again where they first appeared at the start of the play and set sail in a small broken boat. Although the journey home seemed perilous, there was a sense of having reached a full circle and both men agreed that it was time to go home to face the people and things that they had been trying to avoid.
I left the theater with the feeling that this play was like a young wine. It was not bad on its own but there was a sense that it was not quite there yet, that it had not unlocked its full potential. Like wine, this play felt like it would get better with age, as it matured and got more refined.
All of us were given a goodie bag as we exited the theather. It was a maroon velvet drawstring bag with the name of one of the sponsers printed on it.
Inside the bag were packets of instant coffee and two coasters of the Huayi festival. Bell thought that it was a nice gesture and felt that the organizers had put some thought into preparing the goodie bag.