REVIEW: “The C-Word” play is full of c-words: Chinese, Canadian, colou-blind, change, characters… “C” it for yourself!

What is the C-Word that is the meaning of life?

The C-Word cast
(Foreground, from left): Preet Cheema (Akesh Gill), Grace Chin (Kelly Cho), Sheryl Thompson (Ashley Hennessey).
(Background, from left): Fane Tse
(Steve Chung), Raahul Singh (Pal Prasad). Photo by Terry
Wong, courtesy of The C-word.

The C-Word
  April 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 2009
written by Grace Chin

at the
Playwrights Theatre Centre on Granville Island, Vancouver

The C-Word is an engaging play… even before you sit down in the seats.  What is the C-Word?  Is it for  Chinese?  Or the derogatory Chink word?  Does it mean Coloured?  Is it a four letter word that belongs below the belt?  One for male appendage, or for female anatomy?

Is the C-Word something more abstract, profound and perhaps “Complicated”?

Or is it “Compassion” or “Cheating”?

In the opening scene, “The Love Guru” is giving a seminar on how to get some action for his male clients.  Pal Prasad (played by Raahul Singh), gives a short talk about goals, and what it takes to follow through.  It's about intention and going after what you want.  It could be any personal development seminar, but this is about the C-word.

Next we meet girlfriends Kelly Cho and Akesh Gill played by Grace Chin and Preet Cheema.  They are on a shopping trip and talking about Kelly's upcoming wedding plans.  Soon we learn that Kelly has a live-in boyfriend named Steve Chung (Fane Tse) who is a yellow guy, while Akesh is single, but she doesn't like brown guys.

Things become complicated when Steve goes to see his old friend Pal to ask for some advice, and compare his relationship and impending marriage with Kelly to Pal's long term “open relationship” to a blonde woman named Ashley (Sheryl Thompsson).  What follows becomes an intercultural Vancouver-style dramedy of errors, innuendo, suppositions on the study of relationships. 

Excuse me… the proper words are cheating, commitment, compassion, change, comic and consolation – after all this is “The C-Word.”

“The C-Word” is the third play by Grace Chin.  Twisting Fortunes was co-written with her TF Productions partner Charlie Cho, and was a delightful comedic romp, set to Vancouver's caffeine drive.  “The Quickie“, Chin's first solo playwright experience, explored multicultural speed dating.  “The C-Word” goes to the next level, exploring a search for meaning in relationships.  This is Chin's most frank and sexual play to date, and hints at the darker sides of relationships and human nature, not to mention weddings.

In all three productions, Vancouver's multicultural society is the setting, but it is the intercultural nature of the characters where the culture clashes occur.  It's not just a Chinese-Canadian 2nd generation immigrant experience that is explored, but also South Asian this time around too.  And somehow this is juxtoposed with what might be mainstream Canadian or possibly alternative sexual lifestyles.

From the beginning, the characters are all interesting and engaging.  The topics are easily relateable to the audience… unless you don't have any friends of a different ethnicity, or have never dated.  The pacing is good, and the diaglogue never flags.

The casting all works.  Raahul Singh has fun being the egotistical “Love Guru” and his character makes reference to the Mike Myers movie.  More cultural references abound as character development exploration occurs when Kelly and Ashley try to figure each other out, and what their men may see in each other.  Here the extremely self-critical Kelly tries to get a handle on the brazen Ashely, she labels a “Samantha” compared to her “Miranda” – or is she really a Carrie Bradshaw?  Grace Chin actually displays a bit of each of the Sex in the City characters in her role of Kelly.

Much of the action revolves around Kelly and Pal, but while Steve's character seems stalled and doesn't give Fane Tse a big range to play with, Preet Cheema gets to push her character Akesh in the 2nd Act.  Supporting actors Lili Lau Cook and Vincent Cheng provide wonderfully surprising turns as Kelly's parents.  Mel Tuck directs this ensemble cast.

Previous productions

a take-out love story

an accidentally Asian romantic dramedy


See previews in Review Vancouver and

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