by Lynn on April 26, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following review was broadcast on Friday, April 26, 2013, on CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 FM. CARRIED AWAY ON THE CREST OF A WAVE at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace until May26


1) Good Friday Morning. It’s time for our theatre fix with Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer.

Hi Lynn. What’s up theatre-wise this week?


Hi Phil

I have one play to review: CARRIED AWAY ON THE CREST OF A WAVE by David Yee, at the Tarragon Theatre, Mainspace.

It’s centered around the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami on December 26, 2004. As Yee’s playwright note states: the tsunami struck the coasts of 14 countries in over 12 hours. It killed over 250,000 people.

Yee interviewed all sorts of people who suffered from the devastation and says “Not a single person I spoke to has told me the story I expected to hear.” The same could be said of his play.


2) How so?


In his play, David Yee tries to illustrate how such a devastating event makes us all interconnected. So he writes vignettes of a prostitute in Thailand; two brothers in Malaysia bailing water from their house; a Catholic priest in India; to an incendiary radio host in Toronto who wants to rile people up and make them aware of their world.—all of them connected by the tsunami, but not in the way we expect; and quite often not in a way that is effective in illustrating his point.

For example, the play opens with a scientist of sorts giving a rambling, over-written speech about how the world was wrenched off kilter causing an extra second in time and in that time various things happened—she was smitten by a handsome reporter, she fell in love, etc.

Are we supposed to assume this was the cause of the tsunami, because it was not directly referenced? Yee has to do better than that in making his point.  It is an unfortunate way to begin a play about a devastating event. It’s over long and it meanders. That’s not a good thing for a first scene.

Then, the two brothers bailing water conjure some ancient myth of a vengeful god to explain the tsunami.


The prostitute in Thailand is told by her customer who is on vacation from Canada that in fact she is really Canadian, had an accident in the tsunami and lost her memory and that he went looking for her after the tsunami. He tells her she was married—not to him. He reveals that he secretly loved her and wants to spend the night with her. She is naturally repelled and distraught. I am just incredulous at this turn of events.

The closest that Yee gets to showing some story that would make us care or be connected is from a man whose job it was to warn people of such impending catastrophes. He saw something troubling on his computer screen but didn’t warn people because he didn’t think it was accurate. Then of course this tsunami hit and he was consumed with guilt.

Such stories are few and far between in this play. Even his title is a tease


3) How so?


You assume that the title CARRIED AWAY ON THE CREST OF A WAVE refers to all the stuff that is carried away by the tsunami. But no.

It’s about sex and being in the throws of passion and it’s described that way by a prostitute to one of her customers who was curious. Yee has moments of poetic writing but it does not add up to a satisfying whole. And often I thought he got in the way of his script by trying to be clever and funny. I’m seeing that too often with playwrights.

What do you want to say in your play I want to ask? Then just say it clearly and get out of the way with your cleverness. Carried away on the crest of your own cleverness.


4) How do you put a tsunami on stage?


Huge credit goes to director Nina Lee Aquino for having the vision and her terrific designer Camellia Koo who put that vision on stage. There is a large section of the stage that is covered in several inches of water, thus suggesting the presence of the tsunami to the story. Characters constantly slosh in it. Very effective.

Sometimes there is a rain effect. Another section is marked by opaque sheets so anything behind them is murky and mysterious.

The cast of seven do brave work. They play several characters many of them seemingly inconsequential to the story. And often seems like padding.

The play is two and a half hours long. Too long. It should be rethought, refocused, rewritten cuttinh anything that is extraneous and gratuitous.

I think David Yee should go back to his original idea of showing  how this event interconnects us all, because this play, as is, doesn’t do it.


Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and Passionate Playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at

CARRIED AWAY ON THE CREST OF A WAVE plays at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace until May 26

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