Monthly Archive for: ‘March, 2013’


Opera Queens Stephen and Mendy discuss records and love.L to R: Michael Sally (Mendy) and Matt Weimer (Stephen).

THE LISBON TRAVIATA by Terrence McNally. Directed by Dennis Lickteig. New Conservatory Theatre Center, (Decker Theatre), located at 25 Van Ness Avenue near Market Street in San Francisco, 94102. (415) 861-8972 or online at  Through March 31, 2013


The multitalented Terrence McNally has many interests, two of which are opera (Maria Callas in particular) and gay relationships. He paid homage to Callas in 1995 with his Master
that became the award winning vehicle for many actresses including Zoe Caldwell and Patti Lapone.  His plays involving gay relationships are legendary including Love, Valor and Compassion and Lips Together, Teeth Apart that received an excellent performance at NCTC last year.

The Lisbon Traviata predates those mentioned above (1989) and became a starring vehicle for Nathan Lane who played the role of the opera devotee Mendy in San Francisco and on Broadway. It is a juicy role that Michael Sally performs with gusto and perfect timing that is reminiscent of Nathan Lane and that is good. The other three members of the cast give yeomen performances creating a unified ensemble effort.

Clever McNally creates two distinct character types, those who appreciate opera and those who do not. If you are of the former persuasion you will be more appreciative of act one where Mendy is sharing an evening of esoteric opera banter with good friend Stephen, a top-notch editor who has perfect pitch for music and a fantastic store of opera trivia. Mendy and Stephen  seem to be made for each other and there is more than a suggestion that they were intimate in the past. If Mendy had his way, they would (could?) be so again.

The title of the play derives from 1958 Callas production of La Traviata  at Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos in Lisbon. An unauthorized recording was made of the live performance and due to the limited number of copies; it became a collector’s item. Stephen just happens to have a copy and Mendy wants to hear it now and not tomorrow. The record is in Stephen’s apartment where Mike (Philippe Gosselin) his doctor lover of eight years is having a tryst with Paul (Adam Roy) a hunky graduate student.  Apparently it is an “open” relationship and Stephen is scheduled to have an assignation with a young fledgling writer who is a waiter. That meeting never happens and Stephen stays over at Mendy’s place.

We learn a good deal about Mike who appears briefly     and Paul who never appears in act one, through conversations, telephone calls and answering machines. The banter is decidedly gay with some great zingers as Stephen and Mendy upstage each other with their individual knowledge of opera. The entire act can be described as frothy with a touch of uncertainty prescience of drama in act two.

During intermission the entire set depicting Mendy’s colorful cluttered apartment is replaced with the immaculate apartment of Mike and Stephen. It becomes apparent through subtle directorial touches that Mike is a compulsive. Licktig moves the characters about the stage creating understated apprehension and conflict. Whereas humor abounds in act one it is totally absent in act two where Stephen returns early to meet a nude Paul stepping out of the bedroom. What happens could be the basis of an opera and the outcome will not be divulged here.

Although the storyline is riveting the running time of 2 hours and 25 minutes is a bit long. However, this play is stunning and well worth seeing.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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