Theater review by Sandy MacDonald
Fledging playwrights often appear to approach the stage as a stepping stone to careers in film or TV, and the writing in Somebody’s Daughter is certainly snappy enough to make that leap. But Chisa Hutchinson’s smart and insightful play deftly skirts the pitfalls of slickness. In this engaging group portrait of women navigating different stages of life, briskly staged by May Adrales on Lee Savage’s tight multifunctional set, Hutchinson explores the perspectives of three women: Alex, a shy, unhappy Chinese-American teenager (a touching Michelle Heera Kim); Kate, her outspoken guidance counselor (Jeena Yi, a firecracker); and Millie, Alex's controlling mother (Vanessa Kai, appropriately scary).
Confronted with a glum and taciturn A-student cipher, Kate does her best to uncover a spark that Alex could use to impress college admissions officers. (“There are an awful lot of Chans in the applicant pool, if you catch my drift.”) Does suicidal ideation count? Glimpses of Alex’s home life provide all the backstory we need. In a household led by tradition-bound, first-generation immigrants, Alex is viewed as a placeholder; for 15 years, her parents have been hoping for a son, and going to extreme, disruptive lengths to ensure that outcome. Until Kate intercedes, Alex is too introverted to even contemplate romance. When a promising prospect comes along (played by the charmingly natural Collin Kelly-Sordelet), she goes somewhat overboard.
Hutchinson is equally adept at depicting adolescent angst, quarter-life quandaries and sexual muddles of middle age. It’s exciting to be drawn into a multilayered drama in which female characters are the driving force. Hutchinson’s engaging drama leaves you questioning the scripts that women are still too often heir to.
McGinn/Cazale Theatre (Off Broadway). By Chisa Hutchinson. Directed by May Adrales. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs. One intermission. Through June 25.
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