In Play Reviews

Sandra Lee and Rob Narita in King of the Yees. David Kinder photo.

Larry Yee (Rob Narita) is missing amidst a scandal in Chinatown, and his daughter Lauren (Sandra Lee) is looking for him. In Lauren Yee‘s semi-autobiographical, semi-fantastical play King of the Yees, the audience catches Lauren standing before a pair of red doors. They comprise the entrance to the Yee Fung Toy Family Association. Founded in 1848, this association provided a safe haven for Yee-related Chinese male immigrants trying to navigate the new world of the United States in general and San Francisco’s Chinatown in particular. For years, Lauren’s dad has run this august establishment. Perhaps she will find him here?

The King of the Yees is the second play in Profile Theatre‘s two-season “The American Generation” that focuses on three exciting playwrights from differing ethnic backgrounds. In this production Play Lauren, like Playwright Lauren, left her Chinese-American family in San Francisco to attend Yale University. She later moved to New York City where she married a nice Jewish man and made a life for herself as a playwright. Like the character in her play, she couldn’t wait to leave her Chinatown life behind.

Lion Dancer and Sandra Lee. David Kinder photo.

Says Profile Atristic Director Josh Hecht, “…I [now] recognize how that complicated relation to one’s cultural heritage can also be a self-erected barrier that keeps us from knowing our ethnic parents as deeply and fully as we might, from enjoying the benefits and pleasures of a closeness with them that we both desire and resist, and from accepting ourselves and our histories as deeply as we might.”

Lauren’s return to Chinatown is a comedic, tender, and deeply moving exploration of her relationship with her father and how that can change with a little age, wisdom, and willingness. With direction by Lava Alapai, Lee and Narita expertly navigate of their troubled but loving relationship. Nick Ong, Madeleine Tran, and Heath Hyun Houghton fulfill the other many roles in a play that ultimately is Lauren Yee’s love letter to her father.

The creative team includes Robin Vest, scenic design; Jaymee Ngernwichit, costume design; Kristeen Willis, lighting design; Matt Wiens, sound design; Joe Kye, original music composition; Jamie M. Rea, line production; Joy Lanceta Coronel, dialect coach; Keira Anderson, stage manager; Steph Lantiser and Hayley Ferrel, production assistants; Ryann St. Julien, properties coordinator; and Brian Guerrero, technical director.

Nick Ong, Madeleine Tran, and Heath Hyun Houghton. David Kinder photo.

Profile Theatre’s production of King of the Yees runs through November 20 at the Imago Theatre venue, 17 SE 8th Avenue, Portland. Tickets are available here.


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