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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Theatre review: Ga Ting (Family) is a welcome and vital show that verges on the implausible

The story is unique. In Ga Ting (Family), Matt has arrived for dinner at the home of Mai and Hong,  the parents of his recently deceased boyfriend Kevin. He has two gifts for them, one from him and one from Kevin. He also wants to know why he wasn’t invited to the funeral. He also wants them to know they may be partly responsible for Kevin’s suicide.

The casting is rarely seen. BC Lee and Allanah Ong are middle-aged actors of Asian descent, something that we rarely see on Vancouver stages, especially in leading roles. They are both heartfelt and often humorous in their roles as the parents.

The production is handsome. Director Rick Tae has created a sweet natural pace for the actors. Costume and set designer Christopher David Gauthier has created a rich and homey set and costumes that reveal a lot about the characters and their lives. The sound design by Heath Whitelock is haunting, and the lighting by Gerald King is detailed and powerful using water visuals in interesting ways, hinting at Kevin’s suicide. Ian Chan’s videos capture heartbreakingly brief moments of Kevin before he died.

It is often funny. Hong’s terse dialogue with Matt (Brian J. Sutton) provokes laughter,  as does Mai’s admonishments of her husband. Ong moved me to tears as she broke down in an attempt to broker peace between the two men.

The interaction verges on the implausible. The conversation between the angry lover and the traditional parents gets stretched – dad says “get out”, but Matt stays; Matt says “I’m leaving”, but stays. While the script tips into melodrama as the trio continue to parry, thrust and blame each other for Kevin’s death throughout dinner and dessert, it is the strength of the actors and uniqueness of the story that helps keep Ga Ting involving. I suggest you bring some Kleenex.

Ga Ting (Family) by Minh Ly. Directed by Rick Tae. A frank theatre company production, presented by the Cultch. On stage at the Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab (1895 Venables St, Vancouver) until March 19. Visit for tickets and information.

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