Sunday, August 3, 2008

Not the Hendrix song

Though it does use the Hendrix song, and mentions him by name.

I went to see a play last night by a scrappy startup theater workshop, A-Squared, which is a brand-new Asian American group in Chicago. A welcome addition, though I get copious emails from the East-West theater company all the time. A-Squared's production of The Wind Cries Mary runs through Aug. 24, and I highly recommend it if you're in the area. The A-Squared link will give you info; it's in City Lit Theatre's space in the Edgewater Presbyterian church on Bryn Mawr (a small actual theater on the second floor of the church's massive building). You can get discounted tickets on Goldstar Events, too.

Philip Kan Gotanda is a pretty well-known Asian American playwright whose work I'm totally unfamiliar with, but I'm quite curious about him now. The Wind Cries Mary takes place all in a home in San Francisco or somewhere close (originally San Jose) in 1968 or so, and dramatizes what is happening outside the home: sex, drugs, rock'n'roll, the rapidly changing ethnic activism of the time, the Vietnam War, and all the unrest that it brings to campus. Strongwilled, stifled Eiko (a Hedda Gabler type) has just married a bland white academic, Raymond Penberthy, and in comes trouble in the shape of the smarmy Dr. Nakata, a business professor and her father's nemesis, and the trippin', brilliant, erratic Miles Katayama, who could take Raymond's promised teaching post away from him. It has a somewhat predictable plot arc, especially if you've read Hedda Gabler! but some excellent dialogue (and some cringeworthy lines, I'm not going to lie), and great use of music (which might be scripted or original to this production, I couldn't be sure).

This production is really impressive for a small workshop. Pretty solid acting all around, with the standout performances from Joe Yau (who teaches at Second City) as Nakata and Allen Sermonia as Miles. Those are perhaps the flashiest parts, since Nakata's suppressed anger stemming from his internment in WWII and Miles' crazy hippie mannerisms give them a lot to build on. A very nicely dressed little set -- I loved all the late sixties touches. Don't sit in the front row, by the way, because they work pretty close to the edge of the floor. No doubt it'll get smoother as the run goes on, since this was only the second night, but it went quite well, with only a couple of sound hiccups or misspoken words. Definitely worth checking out.

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