The Yeomen of the Guard is not among the most visited of Gilbert and Sullivan’s farcical operettas, but it is as nutty as any of them.
Two plays of a more serious nature also jumped to the A-list. Well, by the VietnameseAmerican playwright Qui Nguyen, is described as a comedy, and it is that. But many of the finest comedies are joined to tragedy at the hip. “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long shot,” Charles Chaplin once observed, presumably. The tragic background to this play is the world of Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s, the plight of people sundered from their families back home in a country that no longer exists as it was, uprooted foreigners trying to find new footing in a resettlement camp in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. In Qui Nguyen’s play, the focus is on the young — two guys and a girl among the refugees, plus an American soldier, all with hormones flowing at full tilt. They’re ready and eager for modern life in the US of A, unlike the girl’s mother, whose stubborn refusal to acknowledge her changed circumstances gives rise to considerable hilarity. The cast seems large, but in fact the 18 characters are played by only six actors, their spot-on portrayals so diverse as to qualify as marvelous. At the heart of the action is the randy magnetism between refugees Quang (James Ryen) and Tong (Jeena Yi), but director May Adrales has molded the whole group into an ensemble of unusual vibrancy. It is a period piece, set almost entirely in about 1975, but it draws on a rich array of popular culture, including more recent styles. Pop ditties from the ’70s are there, but so is anger-laced hip-hop; and one of the most astonishing scenes is a fight between the refugee boys
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