Ok, People, we gotta talk right now about the current show going up at ACT Theatre: King of the Yees. This show, oh, this gloriously hilarious show is filled with outstanding writing, phenomenal acting, and wonderful design. It was downright fun from the ‘turn off your cell phone’ message to the last blackout. I cannot recommend you go see this show strongly enough! GO SEE IT!
And let me get into a little more detail as to why you should go see it without giving too much away. Let’s start with the design. Set in the wonderful Allen Theatre, this show is done in the round. And I love shows in the round, it’s such a fun challenge for Actors and Creative Team Members alike, and the Creative Team killed it for this production. Carey Wong’s (I love that he’s a Wong, and you will have to go see the show to know why!) smart and simple set design used not only the stage beautifully, but the entire theatre with finesse. Brilliantly done props and expertly using the space’s fly system, Mr. Wong created a some-what black box space for the actors to simply act without a lot of things in their way, and it definitely added to the complexity of this play. Mr. Wong understands space in the most beautiful way, and I really loved what he did with this show.
Christine Tschirgi’s costumes were in a word, epic! From her modern dress to her outlandish creative pieces, she dressed each character perfectly! Each new character who joined the show had a look and style all their own, each so clearly defined, that you really did lose the actor playing, and just saw the character. And is there any better compliment to give? I could gush about the brilliance of Ms. Tschirgi’s work, but if I did, I’d give too much away, and I really want you to go see this show. Ok, one teaser – Miami Vice meets Bubble Tea! GO!
Sound and lighting also played a big part in this show, and both were expertly designed, and my kudos go out to Brendan Patrick Hogan and Jessica Trundy for the wonderful job! All in all the tech was just outstanding in this show, and any actor will tell you, without good tech as your foundation, an actor can’t relax and be in the moment, and the tech in this show was stellar from start to finish! Bravo!
Now, let’s talk about this cast, shall we? A small cast of only five actors, these artists take character development to new heights. Each one so nuanced and clear, I was mesmerized by the transitions from one to the next from every actor in this cast.
Lauren Yee, played by Khanh Doan, was so wonderful and dynamic in the way she seamlessly anchors this play. The only actor to only play one character, her performance in this show was both uplifting and inspiring. She takes a journey that any child who struggles with finding balance between the life you want for yourself and the life your parents’ want for you has had, and she did so with outstanding grace and respect.
Stan Egl as Larry Yee, the title character, gave us so much fun loving dad stuff, that he had me and my friends in the palm of his hand. He was goofy and delightful, and gave both my funny bone and my heart strings a workout during his performance.
Rounding out the cast are Actors 1, 2, and 3, with 2 and 3 played by Annelih GH Hamilton and Joseph Ngo respectfully and both had some epic characters to play! Ms. Hamilton, fearless in her attack of the numerous characters she plays in this show, I found her charisma addictively hysterical. She really took all the good stuff her fellow actors were doing and played off of them beautifully. Mr. Ngo had extremely dynamic shifts from one character to the next, and had one of my most favorite moments of the night with some footwear that, honey, I don’t know how he did it, but he did the damn thing in those! No two characters for these two actors were anywhere near each other, and I applaud them both for their impeccable character development and commitment to seamlessly transitioning from one to the next. Bravo!
But let me just talk to you, right quick, about the genius that is Ray Tagavilla, Actor 1, in this show. Now, some might call me biased, as I went to UW with Ray, and have been witness to his genius for sometime (you’ll remember me gushing about him in my review of Four Dogs and a Bone at Theatre Schmeater a few years ago), and to those people I say, ‘If you think I’m biased, you’ve clearly never seen Mr. Tagavilla on stage, because if you had, you’d know, I’m not biased, I just speak the truth.’ Cuz, oooooooooooooooo, did he kill it in this show! Mr. Tagavilla’s comedic timing is something that has always blown my mind, and in this show, oh my god, it’s on a whole new level. The way that he is able to sink so deeply into the character he is playing, that every small gesture specific to that character, and that character alone, is absolutely mesmerizing. I brought five friends with me to this, and at both intermission and after the show, they just kept asking me, “How does he do that? How does he just shift so quickly from one character to another like that?” Answer: Training and Talent! And Mr. Tagavilla has both running through his veins. He gained five new fans with this performance, and nothing warmed my heart more than when my friends said “Let us know the next time Ray is in a show, because we are there!”
I’m always proud of Ray when I have the joy of watching him on stage, am always mesmerized by what a truly phenomenal actor he is, and love him in comedic roles more than anything because his timing is absolute perfection, but this show in particular, these characters that he brought to life, really impressed the hell out of me. Bravo, my amazing friend!! Thank you for bringing the thunder with this performance, for your epic character development, and for pulling audiences into the story in the way that only you can. You know, through talent, and training, and bedazzling prop work, and most of all through the delicious, yet arduous task of sipping on some bubble tea. Oh, those chewy bubbles!
Seriously, though, these actors are no joke, and are expertly directed by Desdemona Chiang. She truly created a space for actors to play, and the way she brought the real Lauren Yee’s words to life was delightful and thought provoking. Her staging in the challenging round theatre was fantastically simple, and allowed for the actors to just listen to each other and lean in to each other, and create real, powerful moments on stage. Some will leave you dying laughing. Some will leave you thinking about your relationships with your own heritage. And for this theatre lover, it left me so damn proud that I live in a city filled with such talented people, and theatres that invest in such good work, where my talented friends can share their gifts with the world. But I guarantee, whoever you are, this show will leave you wanting to be a Yee!
This is not a show to miss, I’m telling you. Go see it! Take friends. Take family. Take everybody! But there isn’t much time left, as the show closes on Oct 1, so go get tickets now. RIGHT NOW!
Tickets and show information can be found on ACT Theatre’s Website.
Thank you all for an amazing night of theatre that I’ll not soon forget! Bravo to everyone involved in this show, you really have created something special!
Ciao for now,