Language of Their Own: Backstage West review

A Language of Their Own *
/April 20, 2007
/By Eric Marchese

Chay Yew's poetic, meditative drama looks at the interconnections between love, desire, sexuality, and identity. That his four principal characters are gay is almost incidental, for in Yew's examination, what counts is each character's self-image and shifting emotional and physical needs. Yew's identity is reflected in his three Asian characters, who cope with assimilating into American society. His focal couple are Oscar and Ming, Chinese men whose opposite temperaments pull them apart, yet who are unable to readily get past their intense, four-year relationship. The more feminine Ming almost instantly hooks up with Robert, a white headwaiter who seeks the perfect romance. Cautious, analytical Oscar takes longer, eventually settling on Daniel, a flamboyant young Filipino American excited to be chosen by the older man, who is his first love.

Director Aurelio Locsin exhibits an almost intuitive feel for Yew's map of the human heart, guiding the subtle body language of his actors to match the demands of Yew's text. Ruffy Landayan's Oscar and Nghia Luu's Ming are wonderfully transparent, allowing us to see the complex mechanisms at work inside both men. With his delicate features and deep-set, expressive eyes, Luu is the focal point, his Ming struggling to sort out just exactly what he wants and needs romantically. Landayan's Oscar forms a fine complement: orderly, introspective, anxious over letting Ming go, and gradually worn down by his HIV, which forms a pointed, poignant subtext. Dennis Tong's Daniel is a sunny, frivolous young queen who only gradually awakens to the burdens of caring for the diseased Oscar. David Clark Smith's Robert is a sensitive romantic who prizes over all else the worthy if elusive goal of monogamous commitment. Eloquent and deft, yet surprisingly funny, Yew's writing is well-supported by set designer Jessica Woodard's raised, yin-yang pattern circular stage and spare yellow backcloth, Lindsey Suits' lighting, and Alton Cove's sensitive original score.

Presented by Rude Guerrilla Theater Company at the Empire Theater, 202 N. Broadway, Santa Ana. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2:30 p.m. (Also Thu. 8 p.m. April 19 & 26. Dark Sun. 2:30 p.m. Apr. 8.) Apr. 6-28 (714) 547-4688.