On the dilapidated rooftop of Las Vegas quickie wedding house the Chapel of Love, seven Asian-Americans gather to search the skies for roving bands of E.T.s. Most of them are struggling with issues of identity, love and which world is truly their home. Suspended above them, like flat alien spaceships, are several enormous playing cards. Most are hearts. If the symbolism seems a little obvious, then it's an easy match for what's to be found in Prince Gomolvilas' "The Theory of Everything," an amusing, albeit overly eager to please, comedy about belonging (or not), loving (or not) and the willingness (or not) to gamble on getting your heart's desire.

On the dilapidated rooftop of Las Vegas quickie wedding house the Chapel of Love, seven Asian-Americans gather to search the skies for roving bands of E.T.s. Most of them are struggling with issues of identity, love and which world is truly their home. Suspended above them, like flat alien spaceships, are several enormous playing cards. Most are hearts.

If the symbolism seems a little obvious, then it’s an easy match for what’s to be found in Prince Gomolvilas’ “The Theory of Everything,” an amusing, albeit overly eager to please, comedy about belonging (or not), loving (or not) and the willingness (or not) to gamble on getting your heart’s desire. This world-premiere play is receiving an international co-production between the L.A.-based East West Players and the Singapore Repertory Theatre, where it premiered earlier this fall.

Aliens and outer space become easy metaphors for feeling like an outsider in a hostile world, and Gomolvilas becomes a bit overambitious in his effort to explore this topic. Not only does he delve into the culture-clash terrain, but he examines the resultant sense of alienation when people don’t fit the norm in terms of sexuality, careers, family or marriage.

Patty (Emily Kuroda) is the true believer in aliens; she wants to be abducted. Her mother, May (Marilyn Tokuda), wants to make her sad daughter happy. Patty’s husband, Hiro (Ken Narasaki), longs to return to Japan. Her friend, Shimmy (Melody Butiu), has a frightening reoccurring dream about her dead husband. Shimmy’s son, Gilbert (the delightful Kennedy Kabasares), wants to change his name to an over-the-counter medicine. His best friends are Lana (Michelle Chong), kicked out of school and dumped by her boyfriend on the same day, and Nef (stiff Brendon Marc Fernandez), a philosophy student who differs from Einstein on the physicist’s theory of everything.

For Einstein, it was a unifying formula that would reveal how the universe works. For Nef, it’s the concept of entropy. From the moment of creation, all living things are advancing toward death and nonexistence.

It’s a lot to cram into one play. Director Tim Dang keeps the focus on the comic aspects, so some dramatic moments that call out for more thoughtful treatment get brushed over. Jose Lopez’s lights offer an occasional sense of magic but fail to establish the nighttime-sunrise scenario. Victoria Petrovich’s playing cards-rooftop set design admirably reflects the hope these people look for in the skies, and the disrepair of where they really are.

The Theory of Everything

David Henry Hwang Theater at Union Center for the Arts; 236 seats; $30 top

Production

An East West Players and Singapore Repertory Theatre presentation of a comedy in two acts by Prince Gomolvilas. Directed by Tim Dang.

Creative

Set, Victoria Petrovich; costumes, Joyce Kim Lee; lights, Jose Lopez; sound Joel Iwataki. Opened Nov. 8, 2000; reviewed Nov. 9; closes Dec. 3. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast

Shimmy - Melody Butiu Lana - Michelle Chong Nef - Brendon Marc Fernandez Gilbert - Kennedy Kabasares Patty - Emily Kuroda Hiro - Ken Narasaki May - Marilyn Tokuda
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