410 (GONE) BRINGS THE DEAD TO LIFE

Article by Luis Vazquez
Photo by Jonathan Slaff

Life is not a game and death is the cruelest of dealers. But in the Chinese Land of the Dead it doesn’t mean you can’t be entertained one final time before the final destination of your soul is reached. 410 (GONE) is a thrill-a-minute ride from a suicides closet to Earth’s Deepest Retreat. The question of where we go when we die is explored in this unique play beginning with a woman, a laptop and a mystery.

Carolina Do, who plays 21, has just seen her brother, 17, commit suicide. But she is not satisfied with the what. She had to know the why. She uses her calculation skills to retrace his steps with the hope that the answer was laying somewhere in his closet where she finds him. She spends 49 days embroiled in this search.

Her brother, in the meantime, has arrived in purgatory. He has become a glitch in the download system symbolized by the dance dance revolution game which doubles as a digital download of souls. He has been reduced to 410 Gone which is a computer term meaning a resource that is requested which is no longer available because it’s meant to be purged from the system. 17, played by Roger Yeh, is not purged and this gets the attention of the ruler of this kingdom, The Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin (Meilin Gray) who once was a merciful entity but is now a frustrated and very bored one who spends her time giving harsh advice to callers of her service. She has one companion, Monkey King (Gerardo Pelati) who serves brilliantly as her confidant, entertainment, conscience and only friend. She plays host to the clueless 17, a gamer who is pretty much happy-go-lucky sans the happy part.

Gray, who was making her theatrical debut in New York, was a natural as she did serve as a bilingual show host in the past and her dance moves on the revolution steps were a natural offshoot of her singing experiences as well. Pelati, the Miami -born actor with a BFA from the New World School of the Arts showed his extensive experience in portraying the man who is controlled by the crown that sits on his head. But his laughter is his medicine.

17 is helped in his battle by his sister (Carolina Do) who continuously inserts clues into a candle-lit pot reflecting a ceremonial tradition and it keeps popping up in the dead land. 17 is remembering and the Goddess and King are doing everything for him to forget. Do, who is a singer as well as actress, is working on a play about her mother’s real life nine-year imprisonment in a Viet-Cong re-education camp. That studious edge is reflected in her character here and through the recalled memories between her and her brother, when she finds herself entering the realm.

We learn that he really wanted to die and that his sister’s reason’s for wanting him back were selfish. Revelations abound as she takes a closer look at her self. The Goddess of Mercy comes to realize why she became so dark largely because Monkey King is revealed not to be held to her by the crown. He stays because he wants to.

All seems to work out as brother and sister achieve mutual closure as he takes the Soup of Forgetting and is deleted which is symbolized by the-reactivation of Dance Dance Revolution. 401 Gone was a laugh-a-minute dark comedy that went into cultural issues that many Asian-Americans, with a foot in each pond, can relate too. Yeh, who was silly yet witty throughout, did a 360 when he finally exposed his inner thoughts to his sister instantly showing his range. Do, had this ability to put out a number of inquiries in a short period of time and her expressions relayed how uncomfortable the truth really was. Pelati was a comic relief throughout but made many valid points at key junctures. Grey took the ball and ran with it displaying her dancing, soprano voice and game show etiquette which was as diverse as her ancestry and instrumental skillsets. She was the shining star of the play and there is more to come from her. The Ox-Head gets little notice simply because he was that haunting. Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig scares us guides us safety with a story worth remembering for all our souls.

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