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Stories Waiting to Be Told

Lending immense and varied flavor is Joe Damiano's imaginative lighting design and an original score and sound design by O-lan Jones.

Lending immense and varied flavor is Joe Damiano’s imaginative lighting design and an original score and sound design by O-lan Jones.

Narita is not a flamboyant or in-dulgent actress staging merely a showcase performance. She commands the stage with a no-nonsense, unadorned style that peels away the identities of women who ultimately tell very American stories as characters who just happen to be from the Pacific Rim.

Among the journeys are a young American-Chinese woman weary of her parents always “eating and talking Chinese”; a teenage Cambodian immigrant; a Korean-raised high school coed painfully adjusting to a foreign culture at Inglewood High; and an Asian-American surprisingly finding her identity in a lesbian summer camp.

In one sketch entitled “Miyhue,” the character’s given first name, the storyteller concedes that it is easier to change her name to Jude for her American friends, although in her heart she will always be Miyhue.

Like any good solo artist these days, Narita doesn’t speak in merely one voice but artfully segues into multiple voices and, much more ambitiously, is skilled at different vocal accents, distinguishing, for instance, a Cambodian’s inflection from a Korean’s.

The story of a newly married wife from Asia, the evening’s most touching drama, is a strikingly forlorn portrait of a woman bravely but quietly tolerating an abusive American husband while sitting primly in a proper house dress holding a telltale, conservative purse and a poignant pair of white gloves neatly folded on her wrist. The gloves are a wonderful image, the mark of a subtle artist.

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Stories Waiting to Be Told

(Los Angeles Theatre Centre; 296 seats; $ 15 top)

Production: The Wilton Project, Paul J. Ash and Narita/No Surrender Prods. in association with the City of L.A. Cultural Affairs Dept. present a one-woman show in one act , written and performed by Jude Narita. Director, Charlie Stratton; lighting, Joe Damiano; music, sound design, O-lan Jones. Opened June 23, 1995; reviewed July 1; runs through Sept. 2. Running time: 90 min. The one-woman play, frequently autobiographical in nature, has flourished locally in recent years. Jude Narita -- whose "Coming Into Passion/Song for a Sansei" ran a total of 24 months in L.A. -- offers her latest solo work, a kind of extension and redesigned "Song," in "Stories Waiting to Be Told," a provocative journey dramatizing six Asian and Asian-American women colliding with their often misguided idea of the American Dream. Narita, who wrote and developed the material in workshops, fills the expansive stage with her silken transformations, subtly and deftly directed by Charlie Stratton.

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