“Kindred Spirits”: Unique concept sparks new interpretation of ghosts

Jocelyn Chui
Northwest Asian Weekly

May Nguyen (left) as Henrietta and Hana Lass as Lane (Photo by Alabastro Photography/Repertory Actors Theatre)

Growing up in the city, Henrietta went through school, got a job, and had a career ahead of her. Yet, she felt that there was a hole in her life, and she set out to find what was missing. One summer, she leaves the city to search for an answer.

She takes a job to repair an old mansion that is rumored to be haunted and has no idea what she’s gotten herself into.

Henrietta is one of five characters in the play, “Kindred Spirits,” currently playing through Aug. 8 at the Richard Hugo House on Capitol Hill in Seattle. The sharp contrast between characters is where the play’s humor lies.

As a newcomer to the house, sensible Henrietta is eager to learn more about the rest of the residents.

Camille, a sweet old lady, loves to talk about the happiest times of her life. Max, on the other hand, is a sad, shy man who stays in the attic most of the time. Lane and Hilshire come and go at odd times. As Henrietta learns more about everyone, the truth behind the rumors unfolds.

Director David Hsieh and playwright Maggie Lee tried to look for Asian Americans when they cast the roles of Henrietta and Lane. May Nguyen, who plays Henrietta, is Vietnamese American, and Hana Lass, who plays Lane, is Japanese American.

Hsieh said that although the story is not a portrait of Lee’s life, her experiences and encounters inspired her.

Hence, Asian Americans were more preferable for the roles.

Hsieh said that while an average play takes about six weeks to prepare, the cast of “Kindred Spirits” had only three weeks prior to the first show on July 16.  However, the short amount of time did not affect the play’s quality. The sophisticated acting and the smooth collaboration among the actors and actresses contributed to an outstanding performance that deserves a bigger audience.

The play, though set in a haunted house, did not evoke chills or nightmares. Lee’s take on the idea of ghosts and spirits is a creative surprise. Rather than worrying about unexpected effects that would make me jump, I found that the story put a smile on my face the whole time. Like Henrietta in the story, I went into something without knowing what to expect — I left the theater with kindred spirits of my own.

I like almost everything aspect of the play. Joel Putnam, who plays as Max, did a great job in highlighting the reticence of his character.

I found myself cracking up at the subtle romantic sparks and interactions between Max and the extroverted Henrietta. I also like the stage settings — a living room with classy furniture.

One thing that needs to be improved is the consistency of the sound effects. Sometimes it was too loud while the volume needed to be turn up at other times.

Hsieh, the founding artistic director of ReAct, is a director, actor, stage manager, and designer based in Seattle. He has worked locally with Washington Asian American Theatre where he directed its inaugural production of “Yankee Dawg You Di.” He has also worked at other theaters and theater groups uch as the Fifth Avenue, NWAAT, Music Theatre Works, Rain Country Players, UW Opera, UW School of Drama, and SiS Productions.

Lee is the lead sketch writer as well as a producer, actress, and panda wrangler for the Pork Filled Players, Seattle’s only Asian American sketch comedy group. A premiere reading of her new play “The Clockwork Professor” will take place at Insatiable!, Seattle’s fifth Asian American Playwrights Festival, in November. ♦

“Kindred Spirits,” performed by Repertory Actors Theatre, runs July 16 to Aug. 8 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at the Richard Hugo House at 1634 11th Ave., Seattle. Tickets range from $6-$15. For more information, visit www.reacttheatre.org.

Jocelyn Chui can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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