Friday, November 16, 2012

Golden Child **

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Signature Theatre has opened their season devoted to David Henry Hwang with a revival of his 1996 play about how Christianity came to the Eng family of Fujian, China in 1918-19. Tieng-Bin (Greg Watanabe) has returned home to his three wives and children after a few years doing business in the Philippines, where he has been exposed to and fascinated by Western culture. His ultra-traditional first wife, Siu-Yong (Julyana Soelistyo), is threatened by the new ideas he brings home. His scheming second wife, Luan (Jennifer Lim), sees an opportunity to make his eagerness for change work to her advantage. His third wife, Eling (Lesley Hu), his favorite, is just happy to have him home. Trouble erupts when Tieng-Bin orders Siu-Yong to unbind the feet of their feisty daughter Ahn (Annie Q). The arrival of a missionary, Reverend Baines (Matthew Maher), and Tieng-Bin's subsequent decision that the family convert to Christianity, lead to tragedy. Act One, basically a comedy of manners centered on the rivalry of the three wives, is filled with bitchy zingers. The shift to a much more serious tone in Act Two is a bit jarring. The tale is wrapped in a framing device in which the now elderly Ahn relates the tale to her young grandson. Soelistyo and Q stand out, while Watanabe seems a bit stiff. The elegant wooden set by Neil Patel and the sumptuous costumes by Anita Yavich are visual treats. Leigh Silverman's direction is unobtrusive. Running time: 2 hours including intermission.

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