Trigger Warning: This play discusses and depicts issues of mental illness, as well as suicidal thoughts and action. A list of mental health resources is available here.
Written by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig ’05 and directed by TAPS Department Chair Erik Ehn, 410[Gone] is a theatrical powerhouse. Set in an arcade located under a mountain in the Shandong Province of China (yes, you read that right), the play whimsically and effectively blends the modern experience of two Chinese-American young adults with ancient lore concerning the Chinese Land of the Dead.
The semi-autobiographical play follows Twenty-One (Kathy Ng ’17) as she pieces together the details surrounding the suicide of her younger brother, Seventeen (Bee Vang ’15). Seventeen’s suicide is rooted in reality for Ya-Chu Cowhig, who lost her own brother to suicide.
Despite a basis in real-life events, much of the play takes place in a fantasy land. Traversing the road from life to afterlife, the siblings encounter the Chinese Land of the Dead, which is stylized in the play as an arcade. This is a land where souls are transformed from life to death through following their footsteps in life as a game of Dance Dance Revolution.
The Land is inhabited by the mischievous Monkey King (Pei Ling Chia ’15), who has been condemned to labor beneath the mountain, and the Goddess of Mercy (Ziyi Yang ’16), who has chosen to live on earth until all beings have been freed from the cycle of rebirth. Ox-Head (Lizzy Callas ’15) is a non-speaking presence who looms onstage for the duration of the show, emerging at the climax of the play to fulfill the role as the bearer of the Soup of Forgetting.
The play’s connection to last week’s events is not lost on the cast and crew. Director Erik Ehn noted: “There is a cloud on campus; we mourn the loss of Hyoun Ju Sohn. Our play concerns issues so close to recent events. We go forward with the play because we believe that the act of making theater can be light that filters through the clouds.”