Review- Crystal- Dino Mahoney





By Nicole Garbellini

A toxic relationship is always painful, no matter the sexual orientation of those who go through it. Very often one of  the couple gets more injured than the other and even more often that individual is left there to do most of the work: pick up the mess, restore oneself, learn the lesson and move on. But can anybody really move on?


Drug-addicted, in debt and with not much of a purpose in life except for injecting or smoking ice and an obsession with her man, Crystal is a gay Filipino drag queen whose unconventionally romantic story of love and loss is told by Rye Bautista/La Chiquitta and written by local playwright Dino Mahoney. 


A bubbly and nervous Crystal Ball gets ready in the green room of an intimate cabaret theatre in Hong Kong for the opening night of her show. On the opposite side of this lovely black box theatre that I’m sure not many people have heard of before, the talented Jonathan Douglas accompanies Crystal’s narration with a series of emotional piano recitals of his own, taking the storytelling to a deeper level. 


Crystal guides the audience through her love for Jonathan, a handsome British man half her age who works as a model in Hong Kong. In her first song, her love and devotion for him is clear, despite all the differences that tie them together: Crystal knows Jonathan is straight and he knows that Crystal is a man. Yet, when physical attraction strikes and it’s fomented by the heavy use of drugs, anything can happen, whether it is considered conventional or not. 


A passion for slamming, sniffing, ice-smoking and hot baths brings them together, yet Crystal is willing to go miles further than Jonathan just to please him, not only with debauched nights but helping him settle down with his career too. As their differences grow visible, the toxic elements of their relationship spread, although Crystal is oblivious to them until fate has taken its course. As the story unravels, I couldn't help but feel the loneliness of this character who goes through the emotional ups and downs of the chemical trips as she stands by the man who would not do the same for her.


What follows is an emotional roller-coaster and a struggle to survive. Despite the pain being emotional, it is portrayed so powerfully that it almost feels like the abrupt amputation of a limb, followed by long time healing and the constant danger of relapse. 


Bautista’s high performance took the audience on a journey of mixed emotions, from loud laughter (at least from my side) to moments of reflection, sadness and loneliness. Anyone can relate to a toxic relationship, no matter their sexual preferences or whether drugs are involved or not. The songs and the physical movements throughout the play were a great touch; I particularly enjoyed Rye’s dance moves and I think it was a pity there weren’t more.


Controversial, cleverly written and humanely presented, this new play by Hong Kong playwright Dino Mahoney explores taboo issues with a delicate and honest approach. I not only admire the courage to offer this piece publicly, but I also admire anyone who has the strength to present original material in Hong Kong that voices a community and helps keep the art scene alive. I also liked the reconnection between the beginning and end of the story (I will let the audience figure that out). 


Crystal closes tonight at the Hong Kong University Black Box Theatre. Don’t be discouraged by the location; it is extremely easy to get to, only 3 minutes walk from HKU MTRstation (follow the directions here). 


Tickets are very reasonably priced (80-150 HKD) and the lovely Dino will be at the door welcoming you with free wine. The seating is spacey and comfortable, and if you arrive early enough, you can even secure yourself a nice couch or an armchair. It really cannot get any better than that.

Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 3.0


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