Year Zero

By Michael GolamcoYZ-Image.preview

Directed by Andrea J. Dymond

At Victory Gardens Studio Biograph Theater

The Ignition festival of Emerging Playwrights of Color opens Victory Gardens new studio theatre with a worth world premiere: Year Zero

Victory Gardens Theater, know as the ‘playwright’s theater’ now can boast a new young breed of writers: Emerging Playwrights of Color to open their new upstairs 116 seat studio theater. Michael Golamco (half Chinese and half Filipino) has penned a tight story of Cambodian-Americans: a 16 year old, Vuthy (Joyee Lin) a nerdy A student with black glasses. He talks to a skull be brought from a trip to Cambodia and he aspires to write and draw comic books. His older sister, Ra (Jennifer Shin) is an undergrad med student who returns to Long Beach from Berkley upon the death of their mother. Having to cope with both their present mourning and their collective past from the mother’s escape form the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in the 1980’s, Ra and Vuthy struggle to find their place in America.

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Filled with empathetic characters, playwright Golamco has penned a story about the children of the survivors who  crave more than merely survival. Laced with early humor, we witness Vuthy talking to his friend the skull. We hear about his being hazed by Samoans and other Cambodians at school. We meet Han (Tim Chiou), a member of a Cambodian gang recently released from an Americana jail.  Ra is torn between her Chinese med student lover, Glenn (Allan Aquino) who seems too understanding to be believed and her ex-boyfriend, the dangerous macho, Han.

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Golamco’s characters are likable yet his story is a typical immigrant saga filled with coping with their past history while adjusting to American life. What makes this play enjoyable are the truthful performances from the cast.  The little known struggles of Cambodian-Americans in California are vividly presented here. The show suffers from clunky scene changes and a slow pace. But Galamco’s honest characters win us over. Golamco has a fresh voice and an ear for modern vernacular the aptly depicts the 20something generation. Year Zero is a fine new work from a playwright with promise. It’s nice to see that Victory Gardens is featuring fresh young voices.

Recommended

Tom Williams

At Victory Gardens Studio Biograph Theater, 2433 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL, call 773-871-3000, tickets $37 – $48, Tuesdays thru Thursdays at 7 pm, Fridays at 7;30 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 7;30 pm, Sundays at 3;30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission.