Award-Winning Playwright Relives Cambodian History Through Play ‘Cambodian Rock Band’

A new play from award-winning Asian American playwright Lauren Yee, which has been getting rave reviews from critics, is nearing the end of its limited run.  

Developed as part of an initiative by South Coast Repertory’s CrossRoads calling for an engagement with the diverse local communities, “Cambodian Rock Band” is Yee’s way of connecting to the Cambodian community in Orange County via music.

Part comedy, part mystery, part rock concert, this thrilling story toggles back and forth in time, as father and daughter face the music of the past. Neary, a young Cambodian American has found evidence that could finally put away the Khmer Rouge’s chief henchman. But her work is far from done. When Dad shows up unannounced—his first return to Cambodia since fleeing 30 years ago—it’s clear this isn’t just a pleasure trip.

Years before the Khmer Rouge ruled in 1975, a thriving music scene of varying genres has already been brewing in Cambodia. However, the communist regime has obliterated much of their music (and culture) along with the brutal killing of two million of its people.

Some of the surviving music will eventually become the inspiration for Dengue Fever, a contemporary band whose songs were used as the live soundtrack to Yee’s play. 

Los Angeles Times’ Margaret Gray called the play “fierce and funny”, noting that “Yee is such a confident dramatist that we’re perfectly content to wait as she lays out the pieces of her puzzle, never doubting that she’ll put them all together in good time.” 

South Coast Repertory presents the world premiere of “Cambodian Rock Band” by Lauren Yee, directed by Chay Yew. Cast: Brooke Ishibashi (Neary), Abraham Kim (Rom), Raymond Lee (Ted), Jane Lui (Pou) Joe Ngo (Chum), Daisuke Tsuji (Duch). Julianne Argyros Stage, March 4-25, 2018

Praised not only for Yee’s brilliant writing and the effective direction of acclaimed Singaporean director Chay Yew, “Cambodian Rock Band” also benefited well from its talented cast: Brooke Ishibashi, Abraham Kim, Raymond Lee, Jane Lui, Joe Ngo, and Daisuke Tsuji.

“The play’s six talented cast members, of course, bring Yee’s words to vivid life,” wrote Michael Quintos for Broadway World.

Doubling as a 1970s Phnom Penh band called Cyclo, cast members performed live music, each playing their instruments and singing in both Khmer and English.

Quintos summed up his review by calling Cambodian Rock Band, “an excellent first production of this incredibly engrossing story with the added bonus of hearing a great sampling of the kind of music that an evil regime tried its best to wipe off from the face of the earth. Like all great art, it somehow will find an audience no matter what.”

South Coast Repertory presents the world premiere of “Cambodian Rock Band” by Lauren Yee, directed by Chay Yew. Cast: Brooke Ishibashi (Neary), Abraham Kim (Rom), Raymond Lee (Ted), Jane Lui (Pou) Joe Ngo (Chum), Daisuke Tsuji (Duch). Julianne Argyros Stage, March 4-25, 2018

“Cambodian Rock Band” is still playing daily until March 25 (7:45 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 2 and 7:45 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, 7:45 p.m.) at the Tony Award-winning regional theater South Coast Repertory, Julianne Argyros Stage, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

Get discounted front row seat tickets from Today Tix or use code BROOKE for $35 final week via here.

For more information, call (714)-708-5555 or check out South Coast Repertory.

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