Language of Their Own: LA Times review

LA Times
The complexities of modern love
David C. Nichols

"I can never forget what he said to me," goes the refrain of "A Language of Their Own." Chay Yew's delicate 1995 meditation on love and ethnic identity in the age of AIDS has its precious aspects, but this intriguing Rude Guerrilla Theatre Company staging locates the raw impulses beneath them.

It begins in Boston, where outgoing Ming (Nghia Luu), an assimilated Chinese American, lived with traditionally raised Oscar (Ruffy Landayan) until Oscar ended the relationship after his HIV diagnosis. "We were polite even when breaking up," says Ming in the stream-of-consciousness duologue that constitutes Act 1. While director Aurelio Locsin moves these mismatched lovers in
almost ritual manner around designer Jessica Woodard's yin-yang platform set, ambiguity hovers in the air. The intersecting motivations gain heft through choices of physical placement, and the direct-address interjections juggle heartache and humor.

In Act 2, we meet Ming and Oscar's new partners. Ming hooks up with boyish American waiter Robert (David Clark Smith), while Oscar turns to flamboyant Filipino student Daniel (Dennis Tong). The four-sided fugue of longing that follows builds to a quietly elegiac ending.

Throughout, director Locsin and his invested players attack the emotional poetry with a restraint that counters some blips. Landayan has a narrow vocal range as Oscar, but his measured delivery reveals deep reserves of feeling, and Luu makes Ming's self-absorption almost sympathetic. Tong, whose seriocomic finesse seems effortless, owns the house from his entrance. "A Language of Their Own" is highly specialized, but how it says what it has to say feels very special.