JASMINE by Norman Lup-Man Yeung, directed by Keira Loughran, with Janet Lo, Richard Tse and Yeung. Presented by Stage One at the Factory Studio. Aug 2 at 6 pm, Aug 4 at 10:30 pm, Aug 5 at 1:30 pm, Aug 6 at 9 pm, Aug 9 at 7:30 pm, Aug 11 at 3 pm, Aug 12 at 6 pm. Rating: NNNNN
Playwright Norman Lup-Man Yeung understands dramatically that the family equation involves a three-part dynamic - mother, father and children.
Two years ago, when he wrote the 2005 SummerWorks hit Pu-Erh, about a Chinese immigrant father and his Canadian-raised son Raymond, Yeung realized that his tale wasn't complete.
"Though Pu-Erh was about the father/son relationship at the moment of Raymond's moving away from home, I knew that I had a lot to say about the absent mother," recalls Yeung. "The men talked constantly about her sleeping in another room, and I knew that my look at this family's experience had to include her."
One of the fascinating aspects of Pu-Erh was the fact that Raymond speaks little Cantonese and his father speaks little English. Yet the actors unerringly communicated the feelings that underlie the script's two languages.
In his new play, Jasmine, Yeung moves the family five years into the future. Here the focus is on the mother and Raymond, who returns home from New York City with a new sense of his Chinese heritage.
The play also explores the parents' younger lives in China during the Cultural Revolution, before they moved to Canada. Though the script isn't autobiographical, Yeung has taken some of his own parents' stories and expanded them fictionally.
"This time I want to examine how the miscommunication has developed," offers the playwright, who is also a visual artist and screenwriter. "The issues can only be explored when mother and son speak a common language.
"In Pu-Erh, language was both a bridge between parent and child and the reason for their distance. Jasmine explores tough love, and language is a weapon used by the mother against her son. She speaks a cynical line in Cantonese sometimes, knowing that Raymond won't understand her."
Will most of the audience?
"Given the experience of Pu-Erh, I know that an emotional subtext can be communicated universally, no matter what language the characters speak. Still, I expect the audience to be a bit disoriented, but then they'll be like Raymond, who's alienated and a bit frustrated.
"I want to get rid of the safety net of language that's part of most plays, so that audience members work harder and draw their own conclusions about what they're watching."