Last night, love, valour and compassion lingered in the summer night’s air of September at The Cherry Lane Theater in New York, where director Alan Muraoka had assembled a superb Asian American cast to perform in a staged reading of Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning play LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION!, during an evening in support of the National Asian American Theatre Co. (NAATCO).
Founded in 1989 by Richard Eng and Mia Katigbak to promote and support Asian American actors, directors, designers, and technicians through the performance of European and American classical and contemporary works, the NAATCO LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! cast featured Francis Jue as John and James Jeckyll (who had flown in from California where he is currently appearing in the TheatreWorks production of David Henry Hwang’s YELLOW FACE), Satya Bhabha as Ramon Fornos, Joel de la Fuente as Gregory Mitchell, Orville Mendoza as Buzz Hauser, Andy Pang as Arthur Pape, Ralph Peña as Perry Sellars, James Yaegashi as Bobby Brahms, with stage directions read by Ann Harada.
In LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION!, eight gay friends spend one summer together, congregating at a summer vacation house in Dutchess County on the Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends, where they struggle with infidelity, flirtations, soul-searching, AIDS, truth-telling and skinny-dipping.
I loved Alan Muraoka’s last directing foray at NAATCO,the OBIE Award winning, critically-acclaimed production of FALSETTOLAND, which debuted Off-Broadway at The Vineyard Theatre in 1998. Jason Ma, Ann Sanders, Manu Narayan, Francis Jue, Christine Toy Johnson, MaryAnn Hu and Ben Wu were pitch perfect in the 2007 revival presented during the first National Asian American Theatre Festival in New York.
I knew that last night’s show of LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! would be a special one, and it was spectacular. Joseph Thalken, who worked on the original Manhattan Theater Club version of the show and did all the piano recordings for MTC and the Broadway versions, provided musical direction and accompaniment, and with only three rehearsals under their collective belts, Muraoka nurtured performances from his talented cast that were every bit as nuanced as a mainstage production. I was very moved, and look forward to seeing a fully realized production of LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! with these actors.
The cast received a standing ovation at the curtain call and were joined by playwright Terrence McNally, Joe Mantello (the original director of LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION!), and LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! Broadway castmembers Stephen Bogardus, John Glover and Justin Kirk, for a group photo.
The play was first produced Off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club in October, 1994, then transferred to the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway. It received five 1994-1995 Tony Award nominations, winning for Best Play and Best Featured Actor in a Play (John Glover). In addition to Bogardus, Glover and Kirk, Anthony Heald, Nathan Lane, Randy Becker and John Benjamin Hickey were in the Broadway cast.
Outside the Cherry Lane before the show, I caught up with Marcus Ho, who cut quite a dashing and elegant figure as Prince Oshima in THE SHANGHAI GESTURE this Spring with Tina Chen. He is currently rehearsing his role as Trigorin in NAATCO’s new adaptation of Chekhov’s THE SEAGULL, alongside Rajesh Bose, Cindy Cheung, Jojo Gonzalez, Peter Kim, Lavrenti Lopes, Mia Katigbak, Orville Mendoza, Andrew Pang, Sophia Skiles, and Tiffany Villarin. Helmed by Gia Forakis, the play kicks off NAATCO’s 20th season and is part of the 2nd National Asian American Theatre Festival lineup in New York. Previews for THE SEAGULL begin September 26 prior to an official press opening of October 1 at Theater for the New City (155 First Ave) in Manhattan.
During the cocktail reception, I chatted with Elaina Erika Davis, Jorge Ortoll, Karen Lee, Ariel Estrada, Henry Yuk and his wife Holly, Jojo Gonzalez, and said hello to Loy Arcenas, Nicky Paraiso and Ching Valdez-Aran, who had all turned out to show their support for NAATCO.
NAATCO’s upcoming production of THE SEAGULL takes its cue from Chekhov’s subtitle: “A Comedy in 4 Acts.” Director Gia Forakis excavates the vaudevillian sense of humor in the play and couples it with the bitter despair of Chekhov’s characters to provoke what she calls “comedy’s wicked step-cousin, the grotesque,” where tragedy and comedy live alongside one another.
With set design by Lee Savage, lighting design by Stephen Petrilli, costume design by Alixandra Gage Englund, video production by S. Katy Tucker and sound design and original music by Robert Murphy.
Performances of THE SEAGULL run Mondays through Saturdays at 7:00pm, with a Wednesday matinee performance at 1:00pm on October 14. Tickets are $15-20, and available online at TheaterMania.com or by calling TheaterMania at 212-352-3101. For additional details, visit www.naatco.org
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As a photographer and videographer, Lia collaborates with artists, organizations and companies in establishing their documentary photo archive and social media presence. She has been documenting her colleagues and contemporaries in the arts, fashion and journalism since making her stage debut as Liat in the National Tour of South Pacific, with Robert Goulet and Barbara Eden.
Selections of Lia’s archive of Asian Pacific Americans in the arts, fashion, journalism, politics and space are now in the newly created LIA CHANG THEATER PHOTOGRAPHY PORTFOLIO in the ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN PERFORMING ARTS COLLECTION housed in the Library of Congress Asian Division’s Asian American Pacific Islander Collection.
Lia’s portraits and performance photos have appeared in Vanity Fair, Gourmet, German Elle, Women’s Wear Daily, The Paris Review, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre, Broadwayworld.com, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle, Timeout.com, Villagevoice.com, Playbill.com, Theatermania.com, thelmagazine.com, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post. A former syndicated arts and entertainment columnist for KYODO News, Lia is the New York Bureau Chief for AsianConnections.com. She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog.
Other Articles by Lia Chang:
A night out with Gordana Rashovich, Flora Goforth in The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore
André De Shields Set for World Premiere of Charles Smith’s The Gospel According to James at Indiana Rep, 3/22-4/10
Photos:The Working Theater’s Off-Broadway production of HONEY BROWN EYES by Stefanie Zadravec at The Clurman
Lia Chang Photo Slideshows of Productions in the Working Theater’s 25th Anniversary Season
Andy Warhol, Romare Bearden, Alexander Calder, Lia Chang in Art & Healing Exhibit at Snug Harbor on SI
Juicy Buns at Ollie’s
The Dish on Susur Lee and Shang
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive.