The Oldest Boy by Sarah Ruhl – The Unicorn

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This is the opening show to the Unicorn’s 42nd season. It is absolutely a risky and complicated show. The topic itself, motherhood and attachment parenting across cultures, is difficult to master. Add in puppetry, time jumps, and scene changes can leave this as one monumental task. 
Katie Kalahurka (mother) was brilliant. I adored her in last’s season’s Spinning Tree Production of Ghost Rider. It’s amazing to see her capture humor and grief in one performance. She is probably my favorite local actor. 
Vi Tran (father) was masterful in his portrayal of one having to move between cultures. His character grew, changing his opinions and convictions, which could have easily been flat. He brought a depth and warmth to the character and turned the play in the direction it needed to go. 
Alex Espy (oldest boy) and Andi Meyer (puppeteer) were masterful and gorgeous in their flow, movements and stage presence. I can’t describe too much of what they did because I want any new audience members to be surprised. 
Wai Yim (A Lama) was simply amazing and incandescent when he has scenes to play off of with Katie Kalahurka. It was akin to watching a perfectly timed tennis match. Every gesture and line had another volley back. Brilliant. Sharp direction by Cynthia Levin and impeccable acting. 
Thomas Tong (a monk) did a wonderful job of cluing the audience in to what was going on before it was revealed. I hope to see him grow in more roles in other productions. 
The technical aspects of the play were seamless and amazing. Sarah White (Scenic designer), TzuChing Chen (Asst Scenic designer), Paul Mesner (puppet direction), and Mike Horner (puppet design and construction) had a large challenge that they conquered wonderfully. As always, Tanya Brown (Stage Manager) was on point to make sure it ran on time. This was a preview night, and I’m usually prepared to be very gracious in my reviews with technical glitches. It was flawless. 
My only critique is the second act felt very rushed. There was a lot of great build up in the first act, backstory and emotional discussions. The second act felt like it was hurrying to tie everything in so quickly in a bow it felt unnatural. What it felt like was a major decision was almost made off stage. I can’t tell you anything else without spoiling it for you, but that’s my only negative in an absolutely gorgeous and well done work. It’s honest, daring, difficult, gutsy and complicated with emotions and technical challenges. What a way to open a season. 

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