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The inaugural play of the R/Evolution Theater Company is an imaginative, poetic tale about the psychological struggle between two brothers

Wednesday, Jun 27 2001
Anyone paying attention to trends in Bay Area theater knows of the proportional lack of plays by Asian-Americans and about the lack of multicultural casting in the larger companies (sorry, Spear Carrier #3 doesn't count). In reaction, actors Feodor Chin, Samuel Sheng, and Robert Wu inaugurate R/Evolution Theater Company with Judy Soo Hoo's Texas (skillfully directed by Kelvin Han Yee), an imaginative and richly poetic play about two brothers, the tough slaughterhouse worker Duke (Chin) and emotionally unstable Danny (Wu), who live in a Winnebago on the driveway of their burned-down house. Their relationship reaches a turning point upon the arrival of a college student, Steven (Sheng), who's supposed to board with them. Mere comparisons to Sam Shepard would do the play an injustice. The brothers' psychological struggle with Steven is imbued with the reality of a lost homeland, below-union-wage jobs for immigrants, and the tokenism of minority college students. Robbed of their family and ancestry, Duke and Danny have developed their own language with which to express the otherwise unspeakable ("In the bughouse, where the bugs are. It's not a place for little bear cubs," Duke says, describing the institution where Danny's girlfriend lives). Chin and Wu have played meaty roles recently -- Chin in Thick Description's Rancho Grande and Wu in two world premieres by local Asian-American playwright Prince Gomolvilas. But the two (and Sheng) turn in the best performances I've seen from them in this play, which provides the actors with emotionally complex characters and physically strenuous blocking. Local casting directors should sit up and take notice of their talent. Wu, who's onstage for 90 intermissionless minutes straight, is a touching yet intuitive Danny, while Chin commands the stage as the tightly wound Duke. Sheng's Steven is shy at first, wringing his hands, but soon takes control of Danny and Duke and plans his escape. While other papers have called Wu and Sheng "unintelligible," I attribute the mushy sound to bad acoustics caused by the metal in the set (borrowed from Oakland Opera Theater) and energy levels pitched too high -- the latter easily fixed after opening night. It's time we saw these men in more leading roles.

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Karen McKevitt


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