Reviewed by David Walters
Both were key themes of The Headlands at Lincoln Center’s (LCT3) lovely upstairs Claire Tow Theater off-Broadway space. Perceptions of personal realities are not necessarily truths and to be corroborated, need to be witnessed.
This clever enticing tale is told in such a beguiling way that if you like plays that tell a good story, this is for you.
Aaron Yoo (as Henry) bounds on the stage before any lights have dimmed and immediately welcomes us to his world with an open and immediately approachable vulnerability and charm. He’s a software designer, working for Google that lives in the San Francisco environs and is also, along with his girlfriend Jess (Mahira Kakkar), an amateur sleuth. He invites us along as he’s exploring his most personal case, the murder of his father when he was ten-years-old. The official story is that it was a robbery gone wrong, but there have been a few discrepancies and misalignments in Henry’s fragmented memory that have always bugged him.
He ends up talking to his father’s past disgruntled business partner (Henry Stram), his mother’s best friend (Mia Katigbak), the detective that closed the original case (Henry Stram, playing wonderful double duty), and resurrecting faded memories of his parents and conversations with his mother in her later years (again, doing double duty and wonderfully played by Mia Katigbak).
What lifts this piece apart from most memory plays, is that we’re not just told, but we get to see scenes played out as if the rewind button in Henry’s head has been pushed. When new clues come to light, the rewind button gets hit again and scenes get played over, almost verbatim, but with a new gel on the fresnel throwing a different color on the scene.
The set (by Kimie Nishikawa) also gets to play in this production as the light grey walls that run the length of the stage become projection screens. The projections by Ruey Horing Sun (especially the 10x+ speed of seeing the whole play again) add atmosphere and a strong sense of place, taking the audience back in time in San Francisco and Henry’s life as he remembers it, and create rooms, city streets and bring fluid movement expanding the play way beyond the fourth wall.
A lovely poetic lovemaking scene utilizing live performance and film between Henry’s father and mother (Johnny Wu and Laura Kai Chen), as related by his mother in later years, is very touching and is the base to the depth of feeling and love that Henry has towards his parents that makes the outcome of the play that more devastating.
There are more twists, turns, other points of view and red-herrings, that even though you’re not going to get a chance to see it as it was closed due to COVID-19, you may get a chance to read it, so I won’t spoil it for you. (Edward Chin-Lyn, as the surprise character, brought a reserved power and menace to the production that kept it on edge.)
I’m sorry you missed it, it was a good show, well written, fluidly directed, wonderfully performed and creatively designed that all worked very well together for a good evening of theater.