by Lynn on January 11, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Next Stage Theatre Festival.

Written by Minh Ly

Directed by Aaron Jan

Set and Costumes by Jung-Hye Kim

Lighting by Logan Raju Cracknell

Sound by Steph Raposo

Projection Design by Nicole Bell

Cast: Stephen Tracey

Richard Tsu

Loretta Yu

Ga Ting which means family.

It’s about an immigrant Chinese husband named Hong and wife named Mai who must come to grips with the death of their son Kevin. The couple ran a restaurant in Toronto.

Their son Kevin went to art school in Vancouver. Hong thumbed his nose at his son’s love of art urging him to find a real profession. Hong was a typical hard-nosed father, always nagging at Kevin. Mai seemed to run defense between the two.

What the parents didn’t know was that Kevin was gay and had a boyfriend named Matthew. Kevin dies and the parents have their funeral in Toronto but don’t invite Matthew because they didn’t know how close a friend he was to their son.  They invite Matthew to come to Toronto and meet after the funeral.

Over a rather awkward dinner Matthew tries to tell Kevin’s parents about their son. Hong thinks that Matthew made Kevin gay and Mai blames Hong for not loving their son enough and also blaming Matthew as well for the death.

Director Aaron Jan has realized the many memories the characters have by having many boxes with lids strewn around the stage. With every memory—a meeting, a phone-call—a character takes a box, takes the lid off, we can see that there are little lights inside to illuminate the memory and the character reaches into the box for the thing that will prompt the memory. At times the production looks a bit too fussy with all those boxes and the perfunctory staging of characters endlessly crossing the stage to change location when staying still is more dramatic.

Richard Tse is a hard-nosed Hong, stubborn, unmovable and obviously hurting. Loretta Yu as Mai is combative with her husband and stands her ground. She has spent that marriage being a referee between her husband and son and now she has to interfere on behalf of Matthew. Stephen Tracey is nicely awkward in meeting his lover’s parents but the performance tends to end up preachy and a touch pleading what with the endless lines that ask for understanding and recognition.

I can appreciate that these parents don’t want to believe their child is gay. I can appreciate that they think being gay is a choice and not biological. But writer Minh Ly just dances around and around the issue of the father denying the reality of his son’s gayness and Matthew pleading with the parents to come to grips with that reality. I thought it was a lot of wheel-spinning over tired ground. The play needs tightening and less repetition of the obvious.

Ga Ting continues at Factory Theatre as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival until Jan. 20.


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