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Theater review by Raven Snook
The mutability of memory is at the heart of The Headlands, Christopher Chen’s clever if cold murder mystery at LCT3. Software designer and amateur sleuth Henry (an appealing Aaron Yoo) is obsessed with figuring out who killed his father, Tom (Edward Chin-Lyn), who was shot in the family’s San Francisco home 20 years earlier. Was it his dad’s disgruntled business partner (Henry Stram)? His mother’s possible lover (Johnny Wu)? Or was it a suicide that his mother (Laura Kai Chen) cleaned up? As Henry sifts through his own recollections and the imagined ones of his late parents, his view of his city and family shifts. The past upends the present.
Taking his time as the plot unravels, director Knud Adams elicits believable performances from the entire cast, though a few smaller parts—especially Henry’s girlfriend (Mahira Kakkar)—seem underwritten. Since the play moves back and forth in time on a blank white slate of a set, Ruey Horng’s vibrant projections are valuable both in setting the scenes and evoking the hazy nature of reminiscence. (Images fold in on themselves as though they were in a kaleidoscope.) Despite its noir trappings, including the unreliable narrator at its center, The Headlands isn’t really about who done it; it examines the reverberations of what was done and how little we know about our loved ones and ourselves. Yet considering the intense nature of the story, it’s strange how rarely it stirs the pulse. Intellectually stimulating but emotionally distant, it lands in your head but goes no further.
Clare Tow Theater (Off Broadway). By Christopher Chen. Directed by Knud Adams. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.