Porcelain, Eclipse Theatre Company. Everything in Chay Yew's Porcelain works to isolate murder suspect John Lee, a gay Asian teen from London's East End who endures all the invisibility of minority men in a xenophobic land. Accordingly, the crime scene is a Bethnal Green lavatory where gays, bisexuals, and closet cases engage in risky "cottaging"--sharing anonymous sex with imperfect strangers.

For Lee it's an active kind of invisibility.

Yew is too wise to analyze the murder of the closeted gay man Lee believed loved him. Instead he surrounds Lee with an insidious racism, the sort that drove Native Son's Bigger Thomas to kill (the title refers to the coldness of Caucasians as well as to urinals). Exploiting the crime O.J.-style are closet-case cops, a slimebucket TV reporter, and a lawyer who sells his client's confidences. Actually confronting the crime are Lee's anguished father and a prison psychiatrist helping Lee to recall the crime. One graphic scene of promiscuity in particular, which is played in the dark, is bitter proof that Lee will never be one of the pretty white boys he so envies.

Taut and troubling, this extraordinary "voice play" by Asian British playwright Yew--an off-night production in Eclipse Theatre Company's Satellite Series--is stunningly staged by Jay Paul Skelton. For 90 minutes the four voices, playing many characters, register like a heartbeat every bitter irony, trenchant indictment, and cold cruelty in Yew's hammered-down crime of culture. James Sie as Lee, folding red paper into origami cranes (forlorn symbols of hope), fuses battered love with an anger that's more affecting for being muted. His triumph crowns a staging that can nail you to your seat.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Bridges.


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