Leviathan Lab Presents the Readings of Asian Ghost Stories

Robert Lee, Jeremy Smith, Manna Nichols, Andrew Wheeler, Brooke Ishibashi, BD Wong, Thom Sesma, Cindy Cheung, Ariel Estrada, Steven Eng, Sam Chanse, Bob Kelly, Yan Li, Jeff Tang, Katie Baldwin Eng

Article by Kevin Young
Photo credit Lia Chang

Leviathan Lab, a creative initiative that fosters the advancement of Asian-American performing artists presented musical readings of three unique short stories inspired by Asian ghost stories. Director BD Wong known for his role as the psychologist Dr. George Huang on Law & Order SVU ensured that the production was well executed leaving the audience in awe. Having been in the theater industry for over 30 years Wong used his expertise to guide the cast to deliver their best possible performance. “This production was put together in roughly 15 hours and it was just wonderful working with the cast,” said Wong, “directing is a completely different experience for me.”

Thom Sesma, Manna Nichols, Steven Eng, Jeremy Smith

The first stage reading titled quietu, stars Brooke Ishibashi, Steven Eng, and Thom Sesma. Together the trio delivers a horrific Japanese tale of a senile man grieving over the loss of his wife while a psychotic fugitive is on the loose. Scenes from hands emerging out of thin air or police rampaging through homes looking for a seductive fugitive bring life to this reading. Whether it be the irey and ghastly shrieks of the actors or the string instruments this collaborated performance had viewers looking left and right as if something was skulking them.

Brooke Ishibashi, Cindy Cheung, Thom Sesma

The next performance, the puzzling disappearance of yinxing villa was a more mellow comedic yet horrific at the same time. It stars Thom Sesma, Manna Nichols, and Cindy Cheung. This trio portrayed a folk story from Chinese lore. With traditional Chinese drums in the background combined with the rhythm of the lines gave this piece a unique entertaining quality that kept viewers curiosity peaked. It was the mysterious yet horrific ghost-lady who’s sick obsession with a dying tree combined with the witty banter of a couple who loss their son that moved this story forward. It left an unpredictable ending and realization of what life and death means to these characters.

Andrew Wheeler, BD Wong, Robert Lee, Ariel Estrada

The final piece of the night, lobsters live forever, stars Brooke Ishibashi, and Cindy Chueng. It’s a pessimistic depressing story mixed with hints of humor about recalling memories that make us somber. A middle aged woman goes out to see in search of catching a lobster, the animal that has great significance in her life yet instead catches the “skeleton monster” that haunts the lake. Initially scared and petrified the naive protagonist and skeleton monster learn about themselves and the meaning of life itself through their peculiar encounter. This piece was the perfect embodiment of drama with snippets of humor that kept the audience both thinking and laughing.

Top Row: Jeremy Smith, Andrew Wheeler, Thom Sesma, Sam Chanse, Yan Li, Jeff Tang; Second Row: Manna Nichols, Brooke Ishibashi, BD Wong, Cindy Cheung, Bob Kelly; Bottom Row: Ariel Estrada, Robert Lee, Steven Eng, Kelly Stark, Katie Baldwin Eng.

Overall Leviathan Lab did a phenomenal job putting this off Broadway production together that was the perfect marriage of rising stars and writers to come together to showcase their talent. The small venue and essentially no use of props or stage lighting left the audience with a feeling for intimacy where they could connect with the actors and focus solely on the performance. These dramatic stage readings left it up the viewer to imagine the world that was created by the actors. Not to mention the musical score added to all of the performances. This was the first time Leviathan produced an off Broadway showcase with such talent and have plans to do more in the near future. They will eventually be teaching playwriting classes to the children of P.S. 124 in Chinatown.

Ariel Estrada the executive director of Leviathan Lab was more than happy to speak about what his organization does. “Our performance is a way to give voice to Asian-American creator. Asian-Americans aren’t in the spotlight when they should be. We have the talent and it’s our time to be in the spotlight!”


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