Review: Christopher Chen's Detective Drama THE HEADLANDS Unravels a Family Mystery

From the Marin Headlands, a hilly peninsula north of San Francisco that overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge, a father points out to his ten-year-old son the spot across the bay where he first met the boy's mother.

The Headlands
Aaron Yoo (Photo: Kyle Froman)

When the child asks if they can go there, dad responds, "I actually like looking at it from here, from far away."

Twenty years later, in Christopher Chen's entertaining detective drama, The Headlands, the son will look at this memory from far away, searching for clues in the suspicious death of his father.

"Because you must be defined by your job, I'll start by saying I'm an engineer at Google," says Henry (crisp and genial Aaron Yoo), introducing himself to the audience.

Though it's clear that his father George (Johnny Wu) was killed by a single bullet entering the side of his head, the official police conclusion that it was done by a random burglar has never added up for the self-described amateur sleuth, and becomes even more suspicious after a remark made by his dying mother (Mia Katigbak) in a moment of delirium.

The Headlands
Aaron Yoo, Henry Stram, Laura Kai Chen,
Johnny Wu and Edward Chin-Lyn
(Photo: Kyle Froman)

So with the help of his girlfriend Jess (Mahira Kakkar), Henry sifts through his childhood memories of partially witnessed events he didn't completely understand involving his parents (Laura Kai Chen plays his mother in flashbacks) and characters played by Katigbak, Henry Stram and Edward Chin-Lyn.

Despite Henry's relationship to the victim, the plot-driven proceedings are emotionally cold, perhaps reflecting the detached attitude that comes with the storyteller's profession. Memories serve as solutions to puzzle-solving in director Knud Adams' efficiently done production for Lincoln Center Theater's LCT3, which is highlighted by a complex multi-screen display of projections designed by Ruey Horng Sun.

If the 90-minute adventure leads to a less-than-satisfying conclusion, there is enough cleverness and intrigue involved to make THE HEADLANDS a worthy diversion.



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