Tuesday 10 November 2015

"Banana Boys", Factory Theatre, Toronto, ON

Larissa and I saw Banana Boys this evening at the Factory Theatre.

To a group of Asian-Canadian men in their twenties, a "banana boy" is a peculiar predicament; “growing up yellow on the outside and white on the inside.”

It is adapted from the book, Banana Boys, which was written by Terry Woo, who Larissa had once worked with.

Larissa in the theatre with her book

Nina Lee Aquino revisits "Banana Boys", a seminal work of Asian-Canadian theatre in a powerful new production that examines the deep challenges of being torn between cultures and identities. Drawn together by the death of their friend and unofficial leader, five young Asian-Canadian men must confront unrealized potential, devastating loss and time travel ... all while trying not to punch too many white boys in the face.

The play runs for two hours and fifteen minutes, with a fifteen minute intermission.  It's a small theatre and holds about 100 people, which worked well for this play ... the actors took advantage of the smaller setting by not only using the minimalist stage but also using the stairs in the audience.

The actors were excellent and played such different characters ... from the Toronto Star (which gave it 3.5/4 stars):

  • Darrel Gamotin - He plays Sheldon Kwan, the guy who’s says he’s willing to give up everything for the right girl but proves better at dumping them than keeping them. Warm-hearted, but kind of soft-headed, Gamotin has all the right feelings but all the wrong moves. A really touching job. 
  • Matthew Gin - Gin has one of the toughest jobs, playing the author surrogate who grudgingly goes into medicine to keep his parents happy when he’d rather be an author. He looks like the preppiest of all the guys, but there’s some truly dark stuff bubbling underneath. He’s a multi-level performer. 
  • Oliver Koomsatira - The character of Dave Lowe is the hardest to take in the play: sexist, racist, horribly violent and always in your face. Here’s the surprise, Koomsatira makes us understand and empathize with him without softening any of the hard edges. Frightening but magnetic. 
  • Simu Liu - It’s Rick Wong’s funeral that frames the play. No spoiler here, you see his body as soon as you enter the theatre. Wong is the most seemingly successful one but driven by unspeakable demons. Liu lets us see the man’s power as well as his pain. A great juggling act. 
  • Philip Nozuka - Luke Yeung is one of those Peter Pan boys who never commit and never grow up. Nozuka is perfect in the role, as charmingly playful as a puppy, but just as mischievous as well. Nozuka delivers all that with style but lifts the curtain to let us see the emptiness inside as well. He’s a fine young actor.

I'm looking forward to borrowing Larissa's book and reading it!

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