In Vancouver-based playwright Minh Ly’s Ga Ting, now playing in Toronto as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival, an immigrant Chinese-Canadian couple meets their deceased son Kevin’s caucasian boyfriend for the first time and, over the course of a dinner full of clashes and fiery accusations, they each try to come to terms with Kevin’s death by suicide.
I’m not someone who’s used to seeing my lived-experience reflected on stage so directly so this play hit me like a ton of bricks. On one level, it’s a beautifully rendered character study of three different people dealing with grief but at its core, Ga Ting explores the concept of intersectionality as the characters unpack Kevin’s complex, intersectional identity as both a Chinese-Canadian and a gay man.
While the play deals specifically with a Chinese-Canadian family, I suspect there are a lot of aspects to it that are universal for queer children of immigrants of all ethnic backgrounds. As the characters sketched a portrait of Kevin—compartmentalizing his life, lying by omission to his parents so as to not disappoint them, gradually growing distant with his parents as he inevitably built a new life that they could never hope to understand let alone be a part of—all of it hit devastatingly close to home.
The central conflict in the show stems from another universal immigrant experience; the extreme difficulty second-generation kids often have in communicating with their parents. Not only is there often a language barrier to contend with but we have to span two huge oceans to make contact with our parents: there’s obviously a generational gap where they hold on to old-fashioned beliefs and values but there’s also a huge cultural gap when you’ve grown up in Canada but your parents are from elsewhere.
On the other side, the character of Matthew, the caucasian boyfriend, is judgemental about Kevin’s decision to not come out to his parents and doesn’t understand the cultural barriers Kevin faces with his parents until he confronts them directly.
The cast members, Loretta Yu, Richard Tse, and Stephen Tracey, deliver consistently strong performances especially given the often heavy subject matter. Yu and Tse are note-perfect as the Chinese parents capturing every quirk and mannerism with staggering authenticity.
At 90 minutes I thought the show ran a bit long and I did find it starting to lag near the end. I think trimming it down by about ten to fifteen minutes would help the show run tighter.
But all-in-all, I’m so glad we’re finally starting to see shows like Ga Ting that explore complex, intersectional identities with depth, authenticity and humanity.
- Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are being held at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets for Mainstage/Studio/Site-specific shows are $15 and Ante-chamber performances are $12
- Showtimes and ticket information are available at https://fringetoronto.com/next-stage/schedule
Photo of Loretta Yu, Richard Tse, and Stephen Tracey by Randy Bui