Not physics, but still good
Last updated 2-26-09 at 2:56 p.m.
“The Theory of Everything” is a two-act play which explores the relationships and identity of Asian Americans atop the rooftop of a Las Vegas wedding chapel. The ethnically diverse cast flexed their comedic chops at the Richard Hugo House Theater on their opening night on Feb. 20. Photos by Stacy Nguyen.
By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
When it comes to seeking freedom and personal salvation, perhaps E.T. had the right idea when he phoned home to outer space.
In its Northwest debut at Richard Hugo House and running until March 15, “The Theory of Everything” is a play by Thai American Prince Gomolvilas. It presents an uplifting look into the Asian American identity. The play explores issues of gender, acceptance, and sexuality, while also delving into deeper issues that transcends race, such as philosophical discussions on existence.
Inspired by Grandma May’s (Aya Hashiguchi) tall-tale encounter with aliens, the charismatic Patty (Kathy Hsieh) rallies her friends on the roof of her Las Vegas wedding chapel in hopes of experiencing a similar fate. Spanning the length of one weekend, the group’s search moves to the ground as the characters begin to uncover the truths that connect them to one another.
Each of the seven characters are at a crossroads, each searching for an existential explanation in their recent loss of faith. Disillusioned by her inability to produce children, Patty’s fervent search for extra-terrestrials represents her need to find hope in life — the search to belong as well as realizing that each of these characters is an ‘alien’ in his or her own right.
Diversity is a prevalent theme in the play, as both the cast and characters vary in ethnicity. Although racial diversity isn’t the driving force behind the play, it provides a unique perspective on contemporary Asian American issues.
The intellectual yet wounded Nef (Sam Tsubota) copes with his girlfriend’s traditional and disapproving parents, who reject his ancestry simply because he’s an American-born Chinese. Nef’s sister, the loud and stubborn Lana (Miko Premo), frets over telling her parents that she’s been dropped from law school, fearing their disappointment.
Patty’s husband Hiro (Stan Asis) feels alienated in America and decides to return home to his native Japan, where he will no longer be viewed as an outsider.
The theme of isolation links each of the characters together, bridging the gap between ethnicities, gender, and age.
Gomolvilas does a stellar job of weaving witty, observational humor into serious subjects. He also takes a few moments to address heavier themes such as death. As an indirect result of her husband’s demise decades earlier, Shimmy (Leilani Berinobis) finds it difficult to find ambition in her life — a trait that she passes onto her affable and complacent son, Gilbert (Jose Abaoag).
Through their own struggles with identity and gender, the mother and son come to terms with their flawed relationship as they forgive one another.
Grandma May is easily the most memorable character. As the only self-assured anchor in the play, she plays the observer to the rest of the characters’ problems and emotions.
She exemplifies a confidence that the other characters lack and comes to personify hope and life, particularly during the final scene, when she is at the center of the characters’ various epiphanies.
Under the direction of Manuel R. Cawaling, “The Theory of Everything” is a visually creative piece, notably guided by symbolic, subtle stage lighting during the character’s confessions and revelations. With the aid of a mysterious alien character, Koken (Tiffani Koyano), walking silently from scene to scene, the production has an ethereal feel that brings the concept of blurring reality and the subconscious.
What stands out the most is the chemistry between the cast and characters. Told through sharp, tight writing, “The Theory of Everything” zooms in on the transitioning of unsatisfied souls. In the end, each character relies on one another to fill that void, highlighting the notion that people inherently depend on one another. (end)
“The Theory of Everything” runs Fridays–Sundays through March 15 by Sex in Seattle Productions at the Richard Hugo House Theatre, 1634 11th Ave., Seattle 98122. $10–$14. For more information, call 206-323-9443 or visit www.sis-productions.org.
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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