Saturday August 19th 2017

“The King Of The Yees”

KING-OF-THE-YEESHighly Recommended **** There is an old saying; “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, which can also be used to describe how different viewers see a play. I say this, knowing that the range of reviews for the Goodman Theatre’s “King Of The Yees”, now on its Owen stage will run the gamut. The purely intellectual viewer will see this as a fall short play that has very little substance or meaning, even doubting why this acclaimed theatre would commission Lauren Lee to write it.  Those who see theater as an escape from the day-to-day lives they lead, will probably laugh their heads (or other body parts) off. This is a slick, hysterical evening of pure entertainment. Yes, it probably could have been trimmed down to a 90 or 100 minute, no intermission show, but being two acts. and lasting a little over 2 hours including a ten minute intermission still allowed it to work.

Directed by Joshua Kahan Brody, this World Premiere is a story about “traditions” in the Chinese “Community” of San Francisco. It begins as a play-within-a-play as we are greeted by  Two actors; Daniel Smith (playing a myriad of roles, but starting off as the character of Larry Yee) and Actor Two ( a knockout performance by Angela Lin, who also plays many roles). They are telling the story that is supposedly a play when we are interrupted by the actual Larry Yee ( Francis Jue is about as perfect as one can ask) and we find that the “real” playwright (although it is actress Stephenie Soohyun Park playing the part of Lauren Yee to perfection) who is in the audience that takes the stage. Larry engages the audience explaining the traditions of the Yee name and its heritage, and we are off to the races. Oh, yes ! There is another audience member, a member of the Mah family (adopted by the Yees ,sparkingly brought to life by Rammel Chan, a wonderful comedic actor who makes his many roles, ones to remember) .Yees_05-982x1280-230x300

The story is about identity and traditions that allow a family to continue their keeping to keep the name alive. The association that has great importance to Larry is in fact the Yee Fung Toy Family Association. It is a men’s club that is no longer important to the younger community, in particular the women, but the dedication to preserving the family name is. As the story goes, the actual story, not the play we are supposed to be seeing, Lauren has become very “Americanized”. She has graduated form an Ivy League college, moved to New York,  married a Jewish man and is about to move with him to Germany for a new job. All of this while her father is about to celebrate his 60th birthday, with no grandchildren. By the way, Lauren has said they are not sure they want children.

The play goes on to have Larry go through the special red doors of the club only to disappear. Lauren needs to find him in order to feel better about her life and so she seeks out the famed chiropractor that her father speaks about (Chan is incredible in each of the characters he portrays) who advises her to meet with three elders who give her a mission- to find the cheapest booze she can find, oranges from a dragon and the best fireworks ever. Only upon finding all of these and entering the Red Door , can she get her father back. She does so in some amazing little scenes, with dancing that will make you laugh-the bottle dance from Fiddler”, some “Disco” like “Saturday Night Fever” and of course a little Michael Jackson” tossed in. Just plain FUNNY!!!Yees_01-1280x861-300x202

“The King Of The Yees” will not walk away with the highest of awards, but those who do see it, will walk away with a great feeling and have laughed all their problems away (at least for a few hours after leaving the theater). Isn’t that what we want when seeing a comedy? This one does serve that end, but, we also see how Lauren does get back to her dad and see the importance of learning to communicate with him. She had to learn about the customs and traditions of her past to go to the future, and did so. Now they can communicate and work out their differences for the future. Still not sure about the grandchild, but I left the theater hoping that she would see that light for sure and that Larry would have the joy that I have. This is not the greatest of plays, but as far as comedy pieces go, it does the job.

“The King Of the Yees” has a basic set on an open stage (William Boles), some great costumes ((Izumi Inaba), amazing lighting (Heather Gilbert) and sound (Mikhail Fiksel). The projections which are an integral part of making this show work are by Mike Tutaj (who might just be the best at this) and the dance consultant (there are some traditional dance numbers) L.C. Liao did a marvelous job. I must say, while the cast is small and the two main players are Ms Park and Mr. Jue, it is the three member ensemble (Daniel Smith, Angela Lin and Rammel Chyan) that truly make this a special event in theater-going. “This production will be on the stage of the Owen, located at 170 N. Dearborn Street through April 30th (maybe they can extend) with performances as follows:

Yees_04-853x1280-200x300Tuesday, April 18   7:30 p.m.

Wednesdays  7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.  matinée at 2 p.m. on 4/27

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  2  and 8 p.m.

Sundays  2 p.m.  also a 7:30 p.m. on April 23rd

Tickets range from $10-$40 open seating and can be ordered by visiting the box office, calling 312-443-3825 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Yees

Accessibility-

April 23rd  Touch Tour at 12:30 prior to performance

the 2 p.m. show will be audio described

April 29th  2 p.m. sign-interpreted and

April 30 at 2 p.m. an LED sign presenting dialogue in sync with performance

visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Access for infoYees_11-1280x853-300x200

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The King Of The Yees”.

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