Christopher Chen (whose dazzling Caught outfoxed me—to my delight— several years ago) wrote The Headlands as a mystery: Henry (Aaron Yoo) is a thirty-year-old man trying to find the truth about his father’s death. Twenty years ago, his father (Johnny Wu) was found shot in the family home; the police wrote it off as a robbery gone wrong, or, more troubling, a suicide that somebody made to look like a burglary. With his mother (Mia Katigbak) recently dead of cancer, and an uncooperative police detective (Henry Stram), Henry turns amateur sleuth and tries to piece together the story. His obsession with unraveling his family’s past becomes extreme and threatens his emotional well-being and his relationship with his clever girlfriend Jess (Mahira Kakkar).
Each brief scene is a clue; we see his mother as a young woman (Laura Kai Chen) courted by his father; we meet his mother’s best friend (the outstanding Mia Katigbak) and an initially unidentified stranger (Edward Chin-Lyn). Despite false hints and wrong assumptions, the final reveal is moving rather than shocking. Families, as we know, have secrets.
What turns out to be a sad but, finally, uncomplicated story is supported by a starkly architectural set (Kimie Nishikawa) and projections (designed by Ruey Horng Sun) to shift from one outdoor venue to another. Knud Adams directs with brisk economy.
It was only by an accident of scheduling that I wound up seeing two new plays by two Asian playwrights on the same day at my two favorite Off-Broadway locations: Cambodian Rock Band at Signature Theatre (reviewed here) and The Headlands at Lincoln Center. Besides enjoying each play on its own considerable merits, I was struck—especially having just seen InterAct’s excellent Man of God locally—by the depth of the talent pool of Asian actors and playwrights. More, please.
[Claire Tow Theatre at Lincoln Center, 150 W 65th Street, New York, NY] February 8-March 22, 2020; lct.org