BWW Review: ISSEI, HE SAY at NJ Rep is an Important Play Wonderfully Performed
"We have more in common than you think."
By Mr. Yamamoto in Issei, He Say (Or the Myth of the First)
The New Jersey Repertory Company (NJ Rep) is now presenting the world premiere of Issei, He Say (Or the Myth of the First) through May 20. Written by Chloé Hung and directed by Lisa James, the play is the winner of an Edgerton New Play Award. With superb staging and an excellent cast, this compelling production reveals many of the challenges faced by first generation immigrants. This is a show that should be seen. Important and timely, it portrays themes that transcend ethnic and geographic boundaries.
Issei, He Say is set in a working class neighborhood in the community of Scarborough, Toronto. In the play, Lucy Chu is a 12 year-old girl who is torn between a valued friendship and the feelings of her parents. The Chu family has emigrated from Hong Kong to Ontario, where they have a Japanese neighbor, Mr. Yamamoto who has lived in Canada for a long time. Lucy is bullied at school and she feels like an outsider. Mr. Yamamoto offers her kindness and some very good advice. But Mr. and Mrs. Chu resent Mr. Yamamoto and the Japanese people because of the atrocities that occurred in China during the siege of Nanking. There is a constant tension between the adult neighbors and Lucy is caught in the middle. While the issues in the show are of a serious nature, there are plenty of light and funny moments.
The show stars accomplished actors who bring Issei, He Say to life on the Long Branch stage. The cast includes Stan Egi as Mr. Yamamoto; Kathleen Kwan as Mrs. Chu; Fenton Li as Mr. Chu; and Christina Liang as Lucy Chu. Memorable scenes are wonderfully portrayed including Mrs. Chu's impromptu dancing, thoughtful chats between Mr. Yamamoto and Lucy, Mr. Chu's television obsession, and clashes between the adults.
The Production Staff has done a top job of bringing Issei, He Say to the Long Branch stage. They include scenic design by Jessica Parks; lighting design by Jill Nagle; sound design by Merek Royce Press; costume design by Patricia Doherty; properties design by Marisa Procopio. The Stage Manager is Rebecca Kestel; Assistant Stage Managers are Adam von Pier and Heather Welsh; the Technical Director is Brian P. Snyder; Master Electrician is James Lockhart; and the Lighting Intern is Janey Huber.
We predict that Issei, He Say (Or the Myth of the First) is a show that will have a long life in the theatre. It is a revealing portrait of humankind at a time when immigration and the plight of refugees is a significant issue in our country and beyond. The show is the 124th play that NJ Rep has presented in their 24 seasons. We congratulate Executive Produce, Gabor Barabas and Artistic Director, Suzanne Barabas for continuing to bring groundbreaking shows to the metro area.
New Jersey Repertory Company is located at 179 Broadway in Long Branch. Previews of Issei, He Say (Or the Myth of the First) begin April 19 and opening night with reception is Saturday, April 21 at 8:00 pm. Regular performances are Thursdays, Fridays at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm; Sundays at 2:00 pm. For more information visit http://www.njrep.org/ or call 732.229.3166.
Photo Credit: Suzanne Barabas