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King of the Yees is a madcap romp of family and cultural identity

A play that has a lot of people talking opens September 8 at Seattle's ACT Theatre. King of the Yees is a funny and moving play about a Chinese-American woman named Lauren Yee, struggling to come to grips with her family and her culture while growing up near San Francisco's Chinatown. While Lauren feels like an outsider in her community, her father, Larry, is the ultimate insider.

"The Yee Association was this huge community group in Chinatown and Lauren's father is one of the big leaders of the community," said director, Desdemona Chiang. "In the play, Larry goes missing. You figure out at a certain point why it happens, but in the play, Larry goes missing. And, she has to go on this search for her father. In order to do so, she has to tap into her, I guess, her Chinese instinct."

From there, Lauren plunges down the rabbit hole of Chinatown to confront a world both foreign and familiar.

"The play is kind of a mad-cap romp about living in Chinatown and the different cultures," said Stan Egi, actor playing Larry Yee.

"And a search for identity, for Lauren's character," continued Khanh Doan, actor playing Lauren Yee. "Straddling both worlds and being very American in one way and thinking she knows what Chinatown means, who her dad is, and realizing that there's a lot she doesn't know, and that is worth discovering."

Staged in ACT's Allen Theatre, the play will transport audiences to a place full of surprises... even falling fortune cookies.

"They're sort of part of this ritual," explained Khanh. "It's called a bai that I have to go through, an odyssey in order to find my dad. And, the fortune cookies play into that and help me figure out what three things I need to get."

Everyone involved has their own connection to the story.

"Lauren and I have been friends for a long time," explained Desdemona. "She was one of the first people I met as a young director, and so we've been longtime collaborators. This is a play that I feel, as a friend and a colleague, is kind of endearing because it's so personal for her."

"I am married to a Yee," said Stan. "The way things turned out and the timing of everything, was really kind of serendipitous because in a way for me, this is a way to honor my in-laws, and also my parents."

"I did a couple of living room readings of this as it was being developed," continued Khanh. "And, I was just attracted to the play, because it's really funny. And, I'm an immigrant, so I can really relate to it."

King of the Yees runs through October 1 at ACT Theatre in downtown Seattle. For tickets, click here.

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