PORCELAIN and A LANGUAGE OF THEIR OWN: TWO PLAYS BY CHAY YEW (GROVE ATLANTIC)
Banned in his native Singapore, Chay Yew has been hailed as “a promising new voice in American theater” by Time magazine. With these two powerful, provocative plays, Yew first brought his startling and poetic voice to stages across America and abroad, exploring the battlegrounds, both internal and external, where matters of the heart conflict wit barriers of race and sexuality.
Porcelain is an examination of a young man’s crime of passion. Triply scorned—as an Asian, a homosexual, and now a murderer—nineteen-year-old John Lee has confessed to shooting his lover in a public lavatory in London. A winner of the London Fringe Award for Best Play, Porcelain dissects the crime through a prism of conflicting voices: newscasts, flashbacks, and John’s own recollections to a prison psychiatrist.
A Language of Their Own is a lyrical and dramatic meditation on the nature of desire and sexuality as four men—three Asian and one white—come together and drift apart in a series of interconnection stories. A critical and popular success at New York’s Public Theater, it won both the George and Elisabeth Marton Playwriting Award and the GLAAD Media Award for Best Play.
"Stunningly well-written... Yew's writing is so economical that many, if not most. speeches are only a line or two, yet so powerful that all the talk in the world couldn't say more. The plays resemble musical pieces, quintets or quartets, where each instrument has different themes and qualities and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A benefit to reading these plays, as opposed to seeing them performed, is taking time to appreciate the language. Yew turns even hatred into poetry. Of course, the vehicle that makes the language and the themes of a play mean something is character, and here too Yew excels. His characters are real and poignant, stupid and brave, heartbroken and heartbreaking, brave and familiar. It is astonishing how much Yew accomplishes with few words and how emotionally involving some dialogue on a page can be. The stage may be the true natural habitat of the play, but when writing is as good as Yew's, a book is also a wonderful place to appreciate theatre." - Lambda Book Report
"Two eloquent insightful dramas... [shows] how masterful Yew can be in crafting the poetry of conversation. Porcelain, an impressionistic account of a gay "toilet sex" murder in London involving a Chinese youth and a white male, is full of the rhythms and speedy singers that typify Yew's style. His rendering is lyrical and achingly sad. A Language of Their Own finds a more mature writer dealing with the sticky subject of personal relationships. It is great irony of Language that for all the emotional charged dialogue. the play is really about what goes unsaid between lovers - the charged silence brought about the potent fusion of love and abuse. Romantic, heartbreaking and infighting A Language of Their Own provides an illuminating contrast to Porcelain. Reading both works in a single volume is the next best thing to expiring their power on stage." - Bay Area Reporter
"From one of American theater's most eloquent and promising Asian playwright comes two moving, controversial and provocative plays . Though both plays feature gay Asian characters at the forefront, the major strength and appeal of these poetic and powerful works lie in Chay Yew's masterful presentation of universal themes. [A] myriad of stimulating and poetic scenes... Porcelain deals with very adult themes, situations and language. This thought-provoking drama is a fascinating exploration... [of] the true victims of society created by racism, denial, and homophobia. [Language's] text is lyrical and simple, yet the subject and range of human emotions that lies beneath the word on paper are vast and profound, making this play about gay relationships, the Asian American experience and AIDS greater than the sum of its parts." - Asian Pacific North American Review of Books
"In Language and his first play, Porcelain, both included in this initial collection of his work, Yew brings a powerful gay presence to a world that has often been distorted. Like his characters, Yew is savvy with regard to the stereo types of race and sexual identity, but he refuses to play into or against them. Instead Yew is committed to nuanced individuals who face unexpected situations. His work continues to pose challenges to gay, straight. and Asian audiences alike, and on each front he is uncompromising." - The Advocate
Foreword by George C. Wolfe