Next Stage review: Ga Ting

Minh Ly’s drama is a moving exploration of grief across several cultural divides

GA TING by Minh Ly (Ga Ting Toronto Collective/Next Stage). At the Factory Studio Theatre (125 Bathurst). Jan 10 at 5:15 pm, Jan 12 at 9 pm, Jan 13 at 6:15 pm, Jan 14 at 7:45 pm, Jan 17 at 5 pm, Jan 18 at 9:15 pm, Jan 19 at 1:30 pm, Jan 20 at 7:15 pm. See listing. Rating: NNNN

Minh Ly’s play is a moving exploration of three people’s divergent and conflicting attempts to reckon with their grief across several cultural divides.  

Matt (Stephen Tracey), a young white gay man and the former partner of the deceased Kevin, arrives at the home of Kevin’s conservative Chinese parents whom he is meeting for the first time. I was gripped from the start as both Matt and Kevin’s mother, Mai (Loretta Yu), make deeply awkward pleasantries until Kevin’s father, Hong (Richard Tse) enters with a clear air of resentment. As the politeness erodes, the underlying conflicts surface.

The cast is impressive. Tracy balances Matt’s impulses to connect with Kevin’s parents but also to rebuke them for their emotional neglect. Tse’s severity is authentic while leaving room for a few softer moments. Yu, however, stands out as she adeptly ranges from a quiet desperation to connect with her son even in death, to placating her husband, and trying to maintain affability with Matt. 

Aaron Jan’s direction reveals a rich and often comedic subtext while exposing the darker layers, capably guiding the audience from hysterics to tears and back.

Logan Raju Cracknell’s gorgeous lighting design is amplified by Jung-Hye Kim’s simple and shiny backdrop. Boxes sprinkled around the dinner table encase mementos that trigger flashbacks, and lighting shifts clearly demarcate the temporal jumps.

While I was absorbed throughout, there are a few rough edges. The latter half of the script needs editing. Several exchanges drag, detracting from the momentum. Meanwhile, Matt’s transition from politeness to confrontation at the beginning feels forced and could benefit from more nuance. 

But these don’t eclipse an undeniably powerful production.     

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