A show that is largely monologue narration is difficult to pull off at best. They have a tendency to fall into static rhythms rather than engaging stories. Such was the pitfall of ReAct Theatre's current show "A Language of Their Own" by Chay Yew. And while the show did have a tendency towards that rhythm I mentioned, it also manages some lovely moments and tells a heartwarming tale of what happens when love is denied.
Following the relationships of four gay men in the late 1990's, the show mainly focuses on two of them, Oscar and Ming (Joseph Steven Yang and David Hsieh) as we see them from the beginning of their relationship to their break up as one of them becomes ill and into their new relationships with Daniel and Robert (Alex Adisorn and Trevor Cushman). But even as they continue their lives with their new partners, their first loves for each other still remain an obstacle for their moving on.
Told in two stages, Oscar and Ming's relationship in Act One and the introduction of Daniel and Robert In Act Two, the show insists on constant fourth wall breakage as the characters tell the audience what they are feeling and thinking rather than showing it. And it's this convention that gives the show the tendency towards the lack of depth. Director Victor Pappas manages the various areas and staging well with the show's extremely minimal set and wonderful lighting areas by Maggie Lee. But where it needs more work is in the levels of the characters as they expound on thoughts and feelings rather than showing us action and emotion. This is especially evident in Act One as the two main characters are the only ones on stage and keep falling into presentation mode when giving the exposition.
Hsieh and Yang are an adorable couple when together in scenes but come across as a bit forced and stilted at times. This could be partially be a show not yet settled into itself but I also feel they could have used more direction to keep them from over reaching for the drama and to infuse the monologues with more levels. But both have their moments to shine as the show goes along into Act Two especially with the introduction of Adisorn and Cushman who succeed in injecting more life into the play. Both Adisorn and Cushman inhabit their roles with a beautiful realism and also shine with their own monologues, especially Adisorn who nails his character and speech with a thoughtful and focused intensity.
On the whole, the show succeeds in telling a lovely story in a difficult way. And the gorgeous live underscoring by Evan Crockett goes a long way to make that so. It just could have used more layers to bring out the depth that the characters and the piece could have.
"A Language of Their Own" from ReAct Theatre performs at the Richard Hugo House through May 12th. For tickets or information contact the ReAct box office at 206-364-3283 or visit them online at www.reacttheatre.org.
Photo credit: Rick Wong