Recommended Theater: THIS IS NOT A TRUE STORY (Artists at Play in association with the Latino Theater Company at Los Angeles Theatre Center)

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by Lawrence Lucero on August 24, 2023

in Theater-Los Angeles

The world premiere of This Is Not a True Story, written by Preston Choi and directed by Reena Dutt, is a new comedy that tackles, head-on, the fetishization and anti-Asian racism of Oriental works. It opens at the Los Angeles Theatre Center on September 16. Two low-priced previews take place on September 14 and September 15.

In this new play, CioCio from Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly completes her suicide, only to wake up realizing she is trapped in a never-ending loop of her story. Then Miss Saigon’s Kim joins the void, thrusting another tragic heroine into the deadly cycle, until a mysterious office woman throws their worlds out of balance. This Is Not a True Story unravels the history of Orientalist art and theatre, and looks at what happens when the tragic Asian heroine takes control of her own story.

Tired racist tropes are upended as fictional worlds collide with modern reality. Julia Cho (CioCio), Zandi de Jesus (Kim) and Rosie Narasaki (“Kumiko/Takako” from the 2015 film, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter) star as three Asian “tragic heroines” trapped in a loop she can’t control — until they work together to claim agency over their lives and forever break the cycle.

The title character in Kumiko the Treasure Hunter is based on an urban legend about a real person, Takako Konishi, who was found dead after traveling from Japan to North Dakota. According to the myth, she 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.

“Preston has created a hilarious and nuanced take on how the Asian heroine has been historically presented on stage and screen,” says director 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 who was unfortunately misrepresented in film. Who knows, maybe Cio-Cio and Kim were based on real people who were twisted as well?”

“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 they can’t haunt us as before.”

Presented by Artists at Play in association with Latino Theater Company, 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.

This Is Not a True Story
Artists at Play in association with Latino Theater Company
Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St.
September 16 to October 15, 2023
(previews September 14 & 15)
Thurs-Sat at 8; Sun at 4; Mon at 8 (May 15)
for tickets ($22–$48), call 213.489.0994 or visit LATC
parking ($8) with validation at Joe’s Parking structure, just south of the theater 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lawrence October 19, 2023 at 1:23 pm

This was great. The actors, the writing, the direction…all good. I can see this having a future in theaters in every big US city. Perhaps minus one or two of the characters narrative life “cycles”.


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