Review: The Sugar House at the Edge of the Wilderness

Ma-Yi Theater offers a surreal drama about teens in trouble.

  • Photograph: Web Begole

    The Sugar House at the Edge of the Wilderness

    The Sugar House at the End of the Wilderness at Connelly Theater

  • Photograph: Web Begole

    The Sugar House at the Edge of the Wilderness

    The Sugar House at the End of the Wilderness at Connelly Theater

  • Photograph: Web Begole

    The Sugar House at the Edge of the Wilderness

    The Sugar House at the End of the Wilderness at Connelly Theater

Photograph: Web Begole

The Sugar House at the Edge of the Wilderness

The Sugar House at the End of the Wilderness at Connelly Theater

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

The emotionally stranded Chinese-American siblings of Carla Ching's earnestly insistent The Sugar House at the Edge of the Wilderness need more than a trail of bread crumbs to find their way home. Following the death of their adoptive father, and their mother's inability to cope with it, sensitive Han (Christopher Larkin) and tempestuous Greta (Ali Ahn) wind up in New York, in the care of their father's brother (David Spangler), who is white, and his girlfriend (April Matthis), who is black. The only Asian influence in Greta's life is Baba (Cindy Cheung, beautifully buoyant and ominous), the sweetly threatening, candy-munching reform mistress at the institution she's sent to after causing a fire. There, a compatriot, Miles (Bjorn DuPaty), shows Greta how to endure Baba's inappropriate ministrations without taming the spirit out of her.

Ching parallels Baba's sublimely weird, conformist domain with the candy house where the witch imprisons Hansel and Gretel and contrasts it with the naturalistic outside world. Her dialogue shows a flair for the poetic but sometimes falls into standard CW teen-drama fare. Murky and intriguing, with tweets and songs used to demonstrate the ways Greta and Han are most comfortable communicating, Sugar House overreaches as it explores themes like the discarding of children and what constitutes family and normalcy. Enhanced by Clint Ramos's white-collage set of home fixtures and furnishings, Daniella Topol's Ma-Yi Theater Company production probes the teens' subtle transformations. They're enacted with force and fragility by Larkin, Ahn and DuPaty, though the play only begins to traverse their psychological wilderness.

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Connelly Theater. By Carla Ching. Dir. Daniella Topol. With ensemble cast. 1hr 30mins. No intermission. See complete event information