BD Wong’s “Herringbone”

I saw “Herringbone” at McCarter on opening night, and it was one of those times when you’re glad you went before you read the reviews. Yes, part of it was very dark and horrifying, and in movies I’m such a wuss that I leave the theater for the scary parts, but with live theater I was indeed ready to suspend disbelief. If I had read the reviews, I might not have gone.

And as I reread LucyAnn Dunlap’s interview with Wong (U.S. 1, September 10) I realize that I never saw “M Butterfly,” the David Henry Hwang play and film in which Wong played a female Peking Opera singer.

My first encounter with men playing women on an Oriental stage was in the late 1970s, when the Grand Kabuki troupe played the Beacon Theater in New York. I was freelancing and living Philadelphia, and I managed to snag an interview with an eminent actor. I was starstruck.

I went back and brought two of my young children — they couldn’t have been older than six and nine — to a matinee. They were mesmerized.

I was amazed at how, even within the rigid form of Kabuki, the actor could embody the spirit of an elderly woman with pathos and humor at the same time. It’s this emotion-filled sleight of hand that drew me in, past the dark parts, to “Herringbone.” I can’t get back to McCarter (though the play continues through Oct 12) but maybe I can rent the movie.

BD Wong Makes His Entrance — 11 Times (U.S. !, September 10)

U.S. 1 ran the Simon Saltzman review on September 17.

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