Viceral drama looks at internal issues of a Midwestern family

By Rajkhet Dirzhud-Rashid
Staff Writer

The Repertory Actors Workshop production of Lee Blessing's gut-wrenching drama Independence is the kind of play that makes one believe in the power of live theatre. Peopled with a very talented cast of Northwest Asian American theatre regulars, the play crackles and arrests the attention of the viewer.

The story follows a mother who totally dominates her two daughters, still living at home, and her daughter, who has moved away. The one who has moved away, Kess (Kathy Hsieh), is also a Lesbian and this fact becomes another brick in the wall this family keeps between themselves. Mother, Evelyn, (Lisa Marie Nakamura) has been institutionalized by Kess and when Kess returns for a visit, this old resentment resurfaces. Both Evelyn and Kess' sisters (Caroline Liem, Colleen Parker) feel Kess abandoned them as did the family patriarch many years earlier.

Everyone lives in a state of denial about not only Kess' gayness, but Evelyn's escalating episodese of insanity and sister Jo's (Liem) impending motherhood. All of the women in the family, except Kess, have gotten pregnant out of wedlock including youngest sister, Sherry, who continues to experiment with meaningless sexual encounters. Old resentments set up by Evelyn between her daughters and herdelf boil to the surface and eventually force a confrontation that leaves everyone bruised.

The energy between Hsieh, Liem, Parker and Nakamura is so natural and so full of emotion that at some times it is hard to remember that one is watching a play. This is one work that crosses that line between audience and stage, getting deep in places that might feel guarded but aren't by the time the play's over. A truly brilliant job of directing by David Hsieh puts this one over the top and into the category of a major piece of drama. One would hope that before the August 2 closing, more people than the small audience on hand last weekend would get to see this rare gem.

July 18, 1997


Theatre review
Caroline Liem and Kathy Hsieh star in ReAct's production of Independence by Lee Blessing.

© 1997 Seattle Gay News. Reprinted with permission by ReAct.

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