paper SERIES

by Lynn on March 31, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

In the Tank House Theatre, The Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Written by David Yee. Directed by Nina Lee Aquino. Designed by Camellia KOO. Lighting by Michelle Ramsay. Sound by Richard Lee. Starring: Byron Abalos, Kawa Ada, Rebecca Applebaum, Marjorie Chan, Nicco Lorenzo Garcia, Rosa Laborde. Produced by Cahoots Theatre Company.

paper SERIES by David Yee is composed of six short plays in which paper in some form is the central focus.

PAPER burns is about teaching a daughter the family business. In this case the business is forgery. Baht’s father is a master forger. He has a deal to sell (ironic, that) forged bills to a Russian consortium. But her father dies in a hail of bullets when the police bust his operation. Her father burns the forged bills and then deliberately rushes out to be killed. Baht tries to carry on the family business—the Russians have found her and want her to continue her father’s job– trying to get all the components just right to pass off the bills. The ‘burn test’ is the most difficult. Baht turns out to be the perfect student, and not just for forgery.

In PAPER dolls, a young girl named Mutt tries to envision her dead parents as cut out paper dolls stuck on popsicle sticks. She is the product of a Scottish father and a Chinese mother, hence her name. They died in an accident. Mutt has been shunted from one foster home to another. So she tries to find solace by imagining her parents alive in her two paper dolls.

In PAPER cuts a woman tries unsuccessfully to write her lover John a good-bye note, yes, a ‘Dear John’ letter and hunts for the proper tone. She goes through various emotions, usually resulting from his strategically snorted snoring, until she feels the paper cut on her finger, which leads her into penning the perfect letter.

A man tries to remind his lover of their good times together in PAPER folds because she has shunned him because he forgot to kiss her, once.

PAPER tears is set in a Chinese restaurant where the waiters find new creativity by writing specific messages to be put in the fortune cookies they give to the customers. The aim is to be specific to the customer. The results are sometimes disastrous.

Finally in PAPER route several south Asian men who are qualified doctors in India but aren’t qualified in Toronto, find work by driving cabs. One day they witness a terrible accident and are faced with either helping the people who look down on them, or walking away.

David Yee displays a vivid and varied sense of style and imagination in each of these short stories. They vary from the silly (PAPER tears) to inventively funny (PAPER cuts) to poignant (PAPER folds) with variations in between. He has a good sense of ‘situation’ and can adapt to how he tells the story. His characters are vivid in their own way and I like his lively dialogue and use of language. The best of the six plays is PAPER route because it is the most developed and realized.

Yee’s words come to life under the skilled direction of Nina Lee Aquino. She is inventive and provocative in the many images created with her cast and their use of paper. Aided by designer Camellia Koo, the production begins with a table on which is a stack of paper and a record player sitting on a stack of paper stage right. At the beginning of each play someone puts a piece of paper on the turntable then puts the needle down on the ‘record’. The paper on the table will be used as counterfeit money that will be thrown hither and yon; half-written letters that will be bunched and thrown; an origami bird; cut-out paper dolls; fortunes in fortune cookies; a doctor’s certificate. The floor will be covered with the many uses of paper by the end of the evening.

Of the cast Rosa Laborde is striking as a dangerous Russian woman who wants to know where the counterfeit money is, and later as the frustrated, disappointed ‘Dear John’ letter writer. She has a fine sense of comedy and knows the value of stillness in setting up a joke or an emotional moment. In PAPER route Kawa Ada proves to be nuanced and moving as a doctor who has to drive a cab for a living.

I liked the variety of the stories, the humour and emotion of them. David Yee is an imaginative playwright with a gifted director. A good evening in the theatre.

paper SERIES plays at the Tank House Theatre until April 9, 2011.

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