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BWW Review: CHONBURI INTERNATIONAL HOTEL & BUTTERFLY CLUB at Williamstown Theatre Festival On Audible Theater

Its, well … complicated.

BWW Review: CHONBURI INTERNATIONAL HOTEL & BUTTERFLY CLUB at Williamstown Theatre Festival On Audible Theater

In Shakina Nayfack's world premiere play, a vibrant, international group of transgender women band together at a hotel in Thailand to confront the challenges and joys of gender confirmation surgery. Despite the group's warm welcome, Kina prepares for her life-altering operation all alone. But a caring nurse, a wise couple, and a karaoke-loving bellhop may be exactly who she needs to ignite her truest sense of self.

As the provided synopsis above suggests, this is not exactly light and common everyday subject matter. While there are moments of levity, the dialogue and the characters are tough and quite gritty. Some may have trouble coming to grips with the frank, rather graphic, no holds barred elements which are plentiful in this piece. It did not take much for me to envision audience members unable to sit in their discomfort giving up and leaving the performance early.

These characters and the circumstances that bring them together are different, and while different can be nice, it sure isn't pretty. Pretty is not really what CHONBURI INTERNATIONAL HOTEL & BUTTERFLY CLUB is about. Its about keeping or perhaps, making it real. About making one's way in the world. A world that is not always pretty, easy, or kind. The guests at Chonburi International Hotel & members of the Butterfly Club have seen enough. They are sick to death of playing games and working at fitting-in, simply to get bye. They are literally in the throws of becoming something new and different from that which they think they know. They express and share concerns over not knowing what to be, or how to be, versus just being. Until one of the characters points out that "without consciousness, our body just returns to nature".

BWW Review: CHONBURI INTERNATIONAL HOTEL & BUTTERFLY CLUB at Williamstown Theatre Festival On Audible Theater
Anjelica Ross, Annie Golden, Bianca Leigh,
Dana Aliya Levinson, Ita Segev, Ivory Aquino
Jason Tam, Kate Bornstein, Liz Lark Brown,
Pooya Mohseni, Samy Figaredo, Shakina Nayfack,
Telly Leung, Laura Savia

WTF Associate Artistic Director Laura Savia, directs a cast that includes Ivory Aquino as Hom; Kate Bornstein as Sivan; Liz Lark Brown as Tamar; Samy Figaredo as Jake; Annie Golden as Lisa; Bianca Leigh as Jerri; Telly Leung as Gamon; Dana Aliya Levinson as Dina / Aylin; Pooya Mohseni as Bernice; Shakina Nayfack as Kina; Angelica Ross as Van; Ita Segev as Yael; and Jason Tam as Duan. The creative team also includes sound designer, Joanna Fang; dialect coaches Barbara Rudin and Joy Lanceta Coronel; cultural competence consultant, Riw Rakkulchon; and assistant director, Charlie Barnett IV.

There is no shortage of drama (and drama queens) among and within the group who form a sisterhood at CHONBURI INTERNATIONAL HOTEL & BUTTERFLY CLUB. While some may find it unsettling, the primary message(s) lies beneath the surface. Audience members open to the unorthodox, possibly uncomfortable setting / circumstances will, along with the characters, be reminded that "It takes time to adapt". "It takes work". That "most of us struggle". Most of us cling desperately to that which we see as "truth", "science", "conventions". But are these in actuality, just convenient norms? Perhaps those that are different, that contend with, and face down conventions and norms on a daily basis; perhaps, they (and we) are "the survivors, not always pretty, but we do what we can".

With a running time of approximately one hour, forty-five minutes CHONBURI INTERNATIONAL HOTEL & BUTTERFLY CLUB is now available to Audible listeners. Special access to all seven titles in the Williamstown Theatre Festival 2020 Season on Audible will be made available to eligible donors. Visit www.wtfestival.org/support for more information.


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From This Author Marc Savitt