KING OF THE YEES
By Lauren Yee
Directed by Joshua Brody
November 1 – November 15
Visit any Chinatown in America and you will likely find a small sign posted over an inconspicuous door with this family name character: 余
The Yee Fung Toy (the Yee Family Association) originated in 1886 when Yee clansmen immigrated to America during construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad and bought property at 131 Waverly Place in San Francisco. The men created the association to establish a gathering space for celebrations and social services like medical care and funerals. Since that time, Yee Family Associations have sprung up around the country and world. Only male Yees can join the association and all business is conducted in Cantonese. Larry Yee of San Francisco is one of the grand elders of the national organization whose membership is composed mostly of men between the ages of 80 and 90 years old. Larry recently turned 60 and the other members consider him a nice, young man. His daughter, Lauren Yee, is a playwright whose new play King of the Yees explores the world of her father, dying Chinatowns and how we honor the lineage of our families when that lineage is hundreds of years in the past and thousands of miles away.
The playwright wrote a short foreword to the script:
“A lot of this is true. But a lot of it is only kind of true. Just like the stories your father once told you as a child.”
In King of the Yees, Lauren takes us down a rabbit hole into the imagined streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown, introducing us to characters at the same time foreign and familiar, racing through time and space to find her now-missing father.
Lauren is also a character in her own play. In the midst of King of the Yees, while Lauren is still writing the play, she assembles a team of actors on stage to play herself, her father, disgraced state senator Leland Yee, stylish criminal Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and the 1,000-year-old Revered Yee Chung-Sheung, among others.
At once bitingly hilarious and heartbreakingly honest, King of the Yees busts through the “fourth wall” of the theater to present a shockingly funny and confusing world that’s similar and true to our own. King of the Yees leaps across cultural and national borders to examine just how much of ourselves comprise our own identities and how much is influenced by what our family wants us to be.