GENseng brings family issues, Asian-American culture to center stage

The Department of Theater and Dance and Geneseo’s Asian American Performance Ensemble GENseng have put together a show that will resonate with the heart of everyone who sees it. Titled “The Wash,” the play will run in the Robert E. Sinclair Theater in Brodie Hall Thursday April 23–Friday April 24 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday April 25 at 2 p.m.

This production centers on the divorce of an older Asian-American couple. Everybody who watches this has a divorce in the family,” director and professor of theater Randy Kaplan said. “No matter what your ethnicity is, many people know this dance and can identify with it.”

Kaplan explained that she has wanted to do this play for a while. After meeting playwright Philip Kan Gotanda, she has since been “wait[ing] for the right cast to come along and do it.”

Kaplan emphasized that she inspired by the messages expressed in this play. “I like a lot of what it says about the woman’s role in the family and how that changes for a woman who is not young,” she said. “I really like the whole idea … that people over 60 have a life, and sometimes they have a sex life and romantic life.”

Sophomore Seung Kim—who plays Curley—noted that the play explores a multitude of topics beyond divorce. “The play covers marital and racial issues, specifically within the Asian American community, which isn’t really talked about otherwise.”

Senior Nathan Chou—who plays Nobu—said that he found the play to be very relevant. “One of the things I like about this is looking at the play, I was able to draw lots of parallels to people in my direct family on all sides of it—good things, bad things, [which] made it very humanizing for me,” he said.

There is a good amount of Japanese spoken in “The Wash.” It is unlikely that it will be much of a hindrance to the audience’s understanding of the play, however, as “the actors work very hard to act out what the meaning is,” according to Kaplan. In instances where acting out the meaning is too challenging for the actors, Kaplan added that the actors “make sure to say the word very loudly so you know you don’t understand it.”

Although there are many Japanese phrases tossed around in the production, the palpable moments of silence are what really contributed to the play’s intensity. The lack of sound makes viewers think as they watch and interpret the actions of the actors.

Sophomore Wendy-Marie Aylward—who plays Masi—admitted the silences were an obstacle for her. “There’s a lot that’s not talked about, so it was hard to create that running monologue in my head when I’m thinking of the character and letting that influence my actions and motivate my words without saying what I really want to say,” she said. While the characters may not physically be speaking, their actions say a lot.

Besides the acting experience, GENseng actors in “The Wash” were granted a very unique opportunity. “We have a personal relationship with all of our playwrights,” Kaplan said. Whenever actors needed extra input on their character’s lines or actions, they could reach out to the playwright himself. “Phil [Kan Gotanda] was very available to us via email,” she explained. “All of our GENseng playwrights––if they’re living––guide us day by day.”

Watching the characters in “The Wash” suffer loss and turmoil in the midst of a divorce can’t help but create poignant emotion within the audience. The young actors in “The Wash” portrayed much older characters—and they still nailed it.