Artists at Play in association with Latino Theater Company presents an exhilarating new comedy that tackles, head-on, the fetishization and anti-Asian racism of Orientalist works.
The world premiere of “This Is Not a True Story,” written by Preston Choi and directed by Reena Dutt, is set for a five-week run, Sept. 16 through Oct. 15, at The Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles. Two low-priced previews take place on Sept. 14 and 15.
Tired racist tropes are upended as fictional worlds collide with modern reality. Julia Cho, Zandi de Jesus and Rosie Narasaki star as three Asian “tragic heroines”: Cio-Cio from “Madame Butterfly,” Kim from “Miss Saigon,” and Kumiko/Takako from the 2015 film “Kumiko the Treasure Hunter.” Each is trapped in a loop she can’t control — until they work together to claim agency over their lives and forever break the cycle.
“Preston has created a hilarious and nuanced take on how the Asian heroine has been historically represented on stage and screen,” says Dutt. “Theatergoers will never again look at ‘Madame Butterfly’ or ‘Miss Saigon’ the same way. Through the comedy that ensues from Cio-Cio and Kim’s self-revelations, it’s a surprise to find out Kumiko’s truths considering she’s based on a real person, Takako Konishi, who was unfortunately misrepresented in film. Who knows, maybe Cio-Cio and Kim were based on real people who were twisted as well?”
“Madame Butterfly,” the renowned opera by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, is the story of Cio-Cio-San, a Japanese geisha who gives up everything to marry American naval officer B.F. Pinkerton — a heartless cad who ultimately abandons her and their young son with devastating results.
In “Miss Saigon,” the epic musical based on the opera, Kim is a Vietnamese bar girl in love with an American G.I. who abandons her during the fall of Saigon … with devastating results.
The title character in “Kumiko the Treasure Hunter” is based on an urban legend about a real-life person, Takako Konishi, who was found dead after traveling from Japan to North Dakota. According to the myth, Konishi believed that the Coen Brothers film “Fargo” was a true story and went looking for buried cash.
The real story was much grimmer: Takako went to Fargo — a place she had previously visited with her former married American lover — to commit suicide after losing her job following 9/11.
“I wanted to search for the more well-rounded people underneath these stereotypical, suicidal Asian women, all written by white men,” explains Choi. “Critiquing racist tropes in a fun, dark way weakens their power so that they can’t haunt us as before.”
The creative team for “This Is Not a True Story” includes scenic designer Yuki Izumihara; lighting designer Henry Tran; sound designer M. Glenn Schuster; projections designer Vanessa D. Fernandez; costume designer Jojo Siu; props designer Naomi Kasahara; and dialect coach Kurt Sanchez Kanazawa. Katherine Chou serves as both associate director and dramaturg. The stage manager is Yaesol Jeong.
Artists at Play is a Los Angeles-based theater-producing collective dedicated to programming that explores the Asian American experience. Since 2011, AAP has produced theater that demonstrates the humanity and complexity of their diverse communities. They provide a platform for meaningful representation through employment opportunities, inclusive programming, advocacy and administrative and artistic resources.
The Latino Theater Company is dedicated to providing a world-class arts center for those pursuing artistic excellence; a laboratory where both tradition and innovation are honored and honed; and a place where the convergence of people, cultures and ideas contribute to the future. Now in its 38th year, LTC has operated The Los Angeles Theatre Center, a landmark building in Downtown’s Historic Core, since 2006.
“This Is Not a True Story” opens on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 8 p.m., with performances thereafter taking place on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. through Oct. 15. Two preview performances take place on Thursday, Sept. 14, at 8 p.m. and Friday, Sept. 15, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $22 to $48, except opening night, which is $58 and includes pre- and post-performance receptions, and previews, which are pay-what-you-will starting at $10.
Parking is available for $8 with box office validation at Joe’s Parking structure, 530 S. Spring St. (immediately south of the theater).
For more information and to purchase tickets, call (213) 489-0994 or go to www.latinotheaterco.org.