KING OF THE YEES at Sierra Madre Playhouse – Gia On The Move

By Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Copyright © 2022 Gia On The Move

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It’s not that it was two hours, too long.  It just felt like double that time.

Sierra Madre Playhouse’s rendition of KING OF THE YEES directed by Tim Dang, so often plods along at such a ponderous pace, including occasionally awkward staging at the tip of the wings, that the sprightly comedy of this adventure is a bit dwindled.  And that’s a shame.  Because Lauren Yee’s play is not just a lighthearted journey of self-discovery through the back doors of San Francisco’s Chinatown.  Her semi-autobiographical work is a far more spirited and vital commentary on Chinese culture in America and its evolution.  

The play focuses on Lauren Yee (played by Harmony Zhang), a dramatized version of the playwright, who is trying to get her new play rehearsed. The chief character is none other than her own father.  Larry is the head and “Gate Keeper” of the very patriarchal Yee Fung Toy Family Association, a male-only club dedicated to preserving the Yee line and ancestry.  He is also a very vocal supporter, to Lauren’s frustration, of all things Chinese to a level that Lauren doesn’t understand.  And that is the focal point of this piece.

At the top of this play, Lauren’s goal is to say goodbye to the past.  She loves her father. But she’s never really accepted his unwavering allegiance to the club or Yee history and is cynical about it. Most of what bemuses her is the fact that she’s never actually related to being Chinese.  She doesn’t even speak the language.   However, when Larry goes missing, Lauren’s frantic search takes her on a fantastical journey where she must complete three tests “before Sunset” if she wants to see her father again.  And they lead her all the way back to Model Ancestor, the very first Yee.  She enters the mysterious, comical, and legendary world of her family’s roots through the giant doors in the club that no one but a Yee can open; where Larry has gone.  By the end of it all, she finally understands her father and what it truly means to be a Yee.

There are many heartwarming moments in this production…and plenty of zest, mostly from Dennis Dun as Larry Yee and Tom Dang who plays all the character roles to hilarious perfection. Set design is a bit sparse but works nevertheless on the Sierra Madre Playhouse stage which seems to be the same for all moving parts of this production including the costumes.

Overall though, Lauren, as well as the audience, walks away with a satisfying, happy ending…which isn’t really an ending at all.  Lauren’s new journey as a playwright, in a sense, is just begun.

Written by LAUREN YEE

Directed by TIM DANG


Official Sponsor: PANDA EXPRESS


Opens May, 21, 2022 through June 12, 2022

Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm – Sundays at 2:30 pm

Online Ticketing:

Reservations: (626) 355-4318

Run time: Two hours plus intermission

Consumer Advisory: A few instances of strong lanuage.

All current county COVID-19 safety protocols are being followed.

Photo (above) by Robert Velasco: Lauren & the Model Ancestor (Harmony Zhang, Tom Dang)

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