Four Seas Players Presents Nights Without You

By Joy Chiang Ling

Nights Without You, a play written and directed by Patrick Lee at Four Seas Players, is an evocative story about a Chinese family who moved to New York City after fleeing the Cultural Revolution. The main character, Fai (Jackie Huang), is a traditional opera singer who was marked a traitor under Mao Zedong’s regime, and sought refuge in the US. In his new country, he passed down his skills to a younger generation of Asian Americans, including Zhing (Wing Shan Lo), Tsuen (Annie Lau) and Jenny (Irene Yih). Fai’s history unfolds when he meets an American Born Chinese (“ABC”) named Alex, whose job is to make a television documentary about Fai and Chinese opera.

It is rare to see such a provocative and honest depiction of the Asian American community. Nights Without You contains many scenes that people will find themselves nodding to and laughing at. What will catch most people by surprise is a scene that reveals the character Jane’s (Lai Yee Fung) racist feelings towards black people. Jane’s sentiments are challenged by her more progressive niece, Zhing, who dates a black man throughout the play. The script does not pander to the politically correct – it raises questions that cause its audience to reflect about important issues within their community.

The writing is strengthened by some of the actors’ convincing performances. One notable actor is Brian Chui, who played a younger version of Fai in the flashback sequences. Chui’s expressions and eloquence skillfully captured some of his character’s most emotional and traumatic moments. Also impressive was Sonia Siaw, whose demure personality perfectly suited her two elegant roles: Lin and Grace Park.

What stood out the most was Carribean-American actor Raphael Thomas, who played Todd, Zhing’s boyfriend. Audiences were taken aback by Thomas’s ability to speak Cantonese, which was highly unusual and pleasantly surprising. Although his Cantonese had potential for improvement, Thomas was able to present a character that was comedic, likeable and highly memorable.

Despite its many appealing qualities, Nights Without You is an imperfect play. One thing that irked me was the absence of American Born Chinese actors to play the American Born Chinese characters. Hongxi Sha and Wing Shan Lo, who play the two young ABC characters Alex and Zhing, had English accents that were noticeably un-American, and spoke Chinese a little too well, which thus made their performances unconvincing.

These flaws should not deter anyone from watching Nights Without You, however. It is a play that appeals to a diverse audience – young and old, Chinese and non-Chinese. It will elicit laughter, tears, anger and sorrow. Nights Without You is truly a fantastic play to watch.

Catch the next showing: 06/28 (Sat): 3pm & 7pm or 06/29 (Sun): 3pm. For more: http://www.4seas.org/coming-event/

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