What You Are Now

L.A. Theatre Works. Feb. 2023. 1:38 hrs. ISBN 9781682661765. $4.99. DRAMA
Memory, forgetting, and generational trauma take center stage in Chanse’s (Lydia’s Funeral Video) latest play. Cambodian American neuroscientist Pia (narrated by Carie Kawa) has spent years researching new ideas for helping the mind heal from traumatic memories. Yet she is taken aback by the reappearance of an old acquaintance (narrated by Samantha Quan), who brings back unwelcome memories of her own worst trauma from 10 years ago. Flashbacks allow listeners to see the deep connections between Pia-past and Pia-present. Pia’s mother, Chantrea (narrated by Tess Lina), a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, was a pivotal figure, shaping the lives of Pia and her older brother Darany (narrated by Joe Ngo). The contrasts between smart, prickly Pia, fun-loving Darany, and haunted Chantrea give the play its nucleus, exerting an energy that pushes away well-meaning outsiders such as Pia’s ex-partner Evan (narrated by Mark Jude Sullivan). Unfortunately, audiobook audiences may struggle to fully absorb the characters’ interpersonal dynamics, as the play’s essential body language is not accessible through audio. The result is a work that is intriguing in its hypothesis but less successful in its application and conclusion.
VERDICT A play that questions and affirms the power of trauma, with mixed results in audio.
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