Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (Vancouver)
A co-production with Prairie Theatre Exchange and Soulpepper Theatre Company

Bad Parent by Ins Choi

When & Where Oct 13: 7:30pm (Preview), OCT 14–15, 18–22 7:30pm, Oct 16, 22–23 2pm | The Cultch, Historic Theatre, 1895 Venables St.

Director Meg Roe Assistant Director Hazel Venzon Dramaturg Thomas Morgan Jones Set Design Sophie Tang Costume Design Brenda McLean Lighting Design Gerald King Sound Design Deanna H. Choi Stage Manager Katie Robinson Hoppa

Reviewer John Jane

Bad Parent (note the singular form) is Ins Choi’s satire on the complexities of marriage and new parenthood seen through the lens of a couple ill prepared for either. Charles (Raugi Yu) and Norah (Josette Jorge) have had their lives turned upside-down with the arrival of Mountain, their now eighteen month old son. Choi’s play is produced by Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre; Josette Jorge and Raugi Yu are Asian Canadian actors, but Norah and Charles could be any couple from anywhere – their insecurities are universal.

As with ‘Kim’s Convenience’, his brilliantly successful television program, the playwright demonstrates a keen eye for human frailties and a capacity to make them endearing. Audiences, especially those with the shared experience of child rearing, will laugh with Norah and Charles rather than at them.

The two actors actually begin their performance ten minutes before the scheduled start, even while some audience members are trying to find their seats. Raugi Yu is on stage assembling a child’s single bed from an IKEATM packaged kit. When the play begins in earnest, Norah and Charles speak to the audience directly standing at microphones. They take turns relating anecdotes about the beginning of their relationship and to where they are now as parents of a typically rambunctious toddler.

It doesn’t always come easy, slipping down the family pecking order all because of an adorable intruder. Charles in particular, who once held rockstar aspirations, finds personal acclamation with Nora (no aitch) the Filippina nanny that Norah hired so that she could return to her regular work. Norah, in turn, gets a much-needed shot to her self-esteem through innocent flirtation with co-worker Dale. The roles of Nora and Dale are also covered by Jorge and Yu respectively with not much more than subtle variation in posture and a deviation in vocal timbre.

Meg Roe’s direction is well paced ensuring that the actor’s connection with the audience doesn’t get too camp as they frequently remove the fourth wall encouraging the audience to take sides.

Sophie Tang’s economical set is child’s bedroom within a typical black box is fit for purpose. It features a composite white bookcase with shelves loaded with boxes of diapers, plush toys and heavy duty picture books and an assortment of toys strewn across a white rug.

Norah and Charles are not really bad parents – they’re just imperfect spouses, but with the humour and genuine affection they show us through Ins Choi’s writing – they’ll be okay.

© 2022 John Jane