In Chicago, this is the summer of David Henry Hwang. This playwrights’ work has been on the stages of The Goodman and Silk Road and now Halcyon theatre brings us “Family Devotions” in the downstairs Studio at The Greenhouse Theater center, a play that was written some 30 years ago and yet, deals with some of the same topics in his current plays. “Family Devotions” tells the story about Chinese sisters who came to America to begin their new lives, their children who have adapted to the American Way and their grandchildren, who for all intents and purposes “are Americans”. They are awaiting a family reunion and the great uncle from China who will come to visit- the story deals with many faces of life- who we are, where we come from and where we are going; immigration, integration ( yes, there were times that Asian Americans could not live in some communities), religion, culture and of course identity. There are some secrets in their family closets, but it is unclear what they really are.
While I truly enjoyed “Chinglish” and “yellow face” and found myself laughing throughout most of both, I was a little disappointed in this production. I found the staging to be awkward, in part due to the size of the studio theater that is being used and confusing as I was not sure where the characters were going when they went through the different doors. Director Jenn Adams, worked through her limitations of the set ( Tony Adams) and the space, but I imagine that if she were able to spread her wings and ideas to a larger stage with a budget for a real set, she would do far more with Hwang’s early work. There is an unusual ending to this play, one that was confusing for many of the almost filled theater. Afetr 8o minutes of learning about the family history and meeting these characters, during a religious ritual, all hell breaks loose and then abruptly is over and the two sisters ( the delightful and often comic relief in the show played by Mia Park and Kaori Aoshima) are gone.
There are some missing elements to what otherwise is a story of family and heritage and how people who leave their country either live in the shadow or make the adjustements to their new lives. Hwang has matured as a writer and perhaps one day, he will go back and look at this script as a baby that needs to be retrained. A little nip here and a tuck there and a larger stage to work with might be it all it needs. You can see for yourself, but only through September 4th at The greenhouse Theater Center located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue. The performance schedule is Thursday,Friday and saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3. It is 85 minutes and the tickets are very affordable theater at $18 ( pre-reserved) and $25 if at the door. You can purchase your tickets call 773-404-7336 or visit www.halcyontheatre.org