In "The Lisbon Traviata," Terrence McNally attempted high comedy in Act 1 and despairing tragedy in Act 2, hoping to mimic the extreme emotings of opera. In this West Coast Ensemble production under the direction of Peter Grego, the acts seem like two different plays--a snippy, swishy comedy about obsession and a melodrama about the meltdown of a gay marriage.
Mendy (Don Shenk) has invited Stephen (John Nielsen) over for a night of opera worship. A devoted fan of La Divina, Maria Callas, Mendy wants to hear the pirated record (yes, those vinyl things) of Callas' Lisbon performance of the play title's classic opera. Stephen (John Nielsen) has a copy but can't retrieve it from his apartment. After eight years, Stephen and his life partner, Mike (Scott Ryden), are opening their marriage up and Mike is entertaining bimbo boy Paul (Andy Hirsch) tonight. In Act 2, Stephen returns early the next day to his apartment, confronting Mike and his boy toy.