Amy Tan’s novel, The Joy Luck Club, has seen several iterations besides the film. Four years after the novel hit the bookshelves, the Shanghai People’s Art Theatrem in collaboration with The Long Wharf Theatre, performed a production in a Mandarin translation. The year was 1993. The production moved from Shanghai to Hong Kong. In 1999 the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre produced it. A revival in New York took place last December.
The Joy Luck Club is a charming piece set in San Francisco. We are privileged to look into the lives of four mothers who came from different provinces of China as well as their relationships with their American-born daughters. In 18 scenes, beginning in the Joy Luck Club, we discover the mothers’ pasts, loves, and conflicts with their daughters.
Director Peter James Cirino opens the production with the mothers, daughters, and others entering from the auditorium and the stage, mouthing a quick line or less. The pace seldom diminishes. The movement always makes sense.
Mark Anderson’s simple set design is complemented by videographer Jay Josue’s video projections. These further establish the context of many of the scenes. The director takes full advantage of the visuals with the changing of simple set pieces. In fact, the set changes are seamless, even while action is occurring in the foreground.
The second scene, “Piano Lesson,” is autobiographical. Amy Tan’s mother had expectations of her becoming a concern pianist or doctor. That didn’t happen!
The play is an ensemble piece in which a majority of the 18 member cast has multiple roles. Some of the versatile cast members play rather extreme age ranges convincingly. As with any cast this large, the quality of talent varies.
The Joy Luck Club combines action with monologues. Each scene is themed. The “Moon Festival” is colorful, with crowd-pleasing dragon. “A Letter” impacts one of the daughters with revelations that require her to travel to China.
Another, “Fortune Cookie,” is a comedic, romantic romp. It is an insightful look into a culture many of us know nothing about. I sat in the last row, much too near the cooling fans, which made it difficult to hear some of the dialog. When you go, get in early and sit in the first or second row.
San Diego Asian American Repertory Theatre is currently performing their annual production at the Lab at the Academy of Performing Arts (Ion Theatre Company space), 4580B Alvarado Canyon Road, San Diego. They play weekends through September 14, 2008. For information and reservations call (888) 568-2278 or e-mail [email protected]
Gina Ma, Frances Regal, Elise Kim Prosser, Joyelle Cabato, Trinity Tuyen Tran, Joanne Lim, Tiffany Loui, Linda Pharathikoune, Joseph Balan, Nino Palay, James Paraiso, Robert Borzych, Billy Khang, Trevor Bowels, Wendy Grice, Mary Cherwink, Oniric A. Cirino, Kymm Hansen
SM, AD, Dramaturge Nikki Hanzal, Set Designer Mark Anderson, Costume Designer Beth Merriman, Lighting Designer Kelli Jean Groskopf, Sound Designer & Videographer Jay Josue, Asst SM Courtney Fox Smith, Asst Costume Designer Erin Sutherland, Choreographers Gina M & Joyelle Cabato
Total Rating: Two Stars
Author: Amy Tan, adapted by Susan Kim
Director: Peter James Cirino
Date Reviewed: August 23, 2008
Dates: Weekends, August 15 thru September 14, 2008
Running Time: 144 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
Asian-American Repertory Theatre
Academy of Performing Arts
4580B Alvarado Canyon Road
Box Office Phone: 888 568 2278