Theatre Bay Area Chatterbox

Friday, June 26, 2009

AATC Presents Fayette-Nam


Last night Asian American Theater Company opened its world premiere of Fayette-Nam at Thick House, where it’s in residence this season. The energy was pretty palpable: the 36-year-old company has had its ups and downs lately, but coartistic director, Duy Nguyen, who directed the play, announced in his curtain talk that “Asian American Theater Company is back!”

And it’s back in a big way. With a youthful core of artists, AATC chooses not to play it safe with a more well-known David Henry Hwang but a world premiere by Aurorae Khoo, an LA-based playwright, screenwriter and arts educator. Fayette-Nam takes place in Fayetteville, North Carolina, home to Fort Bragg, and centers on a single Asian American mother, Laura-Lai (Lisa Kang), who runs a dingy donut and eggroll shop next to a strip joint. She’s apparently engaged to a military higher-up but has a rather mysterious relationship with a 19-year-old soldier from Oakland (Jon Gentry) who’s gone AWOL the night before he’s deployed to Iraq. Laura-Lai is quite intriguing, a wanna-be Southern Belle who’s struggling on the boundary of marginalization. She’s given to whimsical and sweetly sad flights of fancy, acting out in great detail her dream of opening a patisserie on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and comparing people and love to food, as with the lovely and funny Bundt cake monologue at the top of act two. But her fantasies are abruptly interrupted by the reality of her college-age pyromaniac daughter (Kathleen Mendoza) and her young son (Kenneth Tan Ronquillo) who’s struggling with his first crush and some bullies from school.

This production is a very loose collaboration with Lorraine Hansberry Theatre Company, one we detailed in Theatre Bay Area’s February cover story (AATC helped with casting on LHT’s February production of Waitin’ 2 End Hell). But for more details on Fayette-Nam, definitely check out AATC’s new website, fully hooked up with all the social networking. The show’s video is also worth checking out in general, but also as an example of how to solve the videotaping a stage play problem. This video looks more like a trailer for an indie film—not surprising given the playwright is also a screenwriter—because they didn’t videotape action on stage, but put the action in a filmlike context.

The evening also ended on an energetic note, with board producer Darryl Chiang encouraging the audience to get more involved with and support the company. From now through July it presents new works incubators and workshops, and its next full production in October is another world premiere: Philip Kan Gotanda’s #5 Angry Red Drum. Congrats AATC!

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