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In Wonderland , a young man recounts his childhood with his architect father and his immigrant mother who dream of a bright future for their son and a chamred life in a picturesque house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. As the Asian American family works toward building their American Dream, dramatic and unexpected developments that threaten to shatter its hopes. 


Wonderland  (under the title Half Lives as a part of the Whitelands trilogy) was first presented by East West Players  in Los Angeles on March 23, 1996. It was directed by Tim Dang.

Man: Dana Lam

Woman: Tsai Chin

Son: Alec Mapa

The current version of Wonderland received its world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse on September 14, 1999. It was directed by Lisa Peterson. 

Young Man: Joel de la Fuente

Man: Sab Shimono

Woman: Tsai Chin

Son: Alec Mapa


"A tragic triumph... playwright Chay Yew is a brilliantly calculating writer, disguising a heart-rending family tragedy in the bright familiar clothes of a run-of-the-mill tale of assimilation into the American melting pot. Wonderland has every bit of the tragic gravity of, say, August Wilson's Fences, and shares its message that minority disenfranchisement can defeat even the most persistent ambition to achieve the American Dream. But it's a message that we don't see coming - and that makes its sad conclusion pack a double wallop. His writing is spare, assured and perfectly tailored to the story.  The play's denouement is grimy inevitable - even though it will break your heart. A surprisingly powerful work." - Orange County Register 

"Confident, darting from movement to poetic lyricism and intense emotion... Yew created vocal music. [A] compelling and very often original evening of theatre. The future looks very bright indeed for Chay Yew." - San Diego Union Tribune

"Willy Loman meets the Master Builder in this melancholic meditation on success, morality motherhood, mediocrity, identity, bigotry, fathers and sons. There's a lot on playwright Chay Yew's mind, and he reveals it in bright splashes of humor washed over huge swaths of dark rumination. Yew's language is breathtaking... the power of the words mesmerizes the audience, and provocative staging underscores the poetry. Powerful piece...Yew has written a haunting play of tender, painful truths that uncover the dark shadows beyond the deceptive brilliance of the California sun, the Hollywood klieg lights and the beacon of Lady Liberty."  - KPBS

"[Wonderland] is a mighty operatic tragedy of the American family in the tradition of Arthur Miller and Eugene O'Neill. He focuses on a family with a gay son, who must fave the contradictions of living as "hyphenated Amercains." They believe in the quality of American privileges, yet are routinely denied access to those privileges in basic ways. The tragedy locks into palce like a perfectly constructed trap until the Young Man's final speech in which the play's audience is directly implicated (or empowered) as participants in choosing representations of American identity. The play has the weight of one of Miller's and O'Neill's classics - an ode to the hopes and damaged reality of the American family. Yet the characters here are Asian Americans and Son is a gay man whose coming out is a symbol of American individuality. Suddenly, the subjects of Asian American identity, gay identity, assimilation and freedom are thematically harmonized to create a fresh, stunningly honest and deeply heartfelt portrait of an American family. The play's emotions feel so true that even non-Asian[s]... will identify with the family and see that Yew's writing about the Asian American experience reveals something profound about all Americans in a place that is increasingly hyphenated, isolated, complicated and fragmented. Wonderland  is irresistible in its compassion and undeniable in its redrawing of the American family and its struggle." - Lambda Book Report 

"Yew's words are poetic without pretentiousness. The script is clean, spare and elegant as a scientific experiment, but filled with passion, pathos and cruelty. Yew does not flinch, and we, who have no choice, gasp. Yew holds up a wonderland (the United States), and refracts without flaw, as if through a prism, facets of things real to each of three characters. There are many song-like moments of flight, during which each dream soars. Yew's work becomes universal for it embodies the unrealized dreams of each one of us. Wonderland  is quite simply one of the year's best theatrical productions. It is a coup de theatre that leaves one gasping. " - Gay and Lesbian Times

"A rare theatrical coup that leaves one gasping with empathy and recognition, howling with laughter, and beset by years. Justifiable hailed as an important new voice in American theater."  -La Jolla Village News

"Chay Yew's Wonderland is fluid, sweeping us through a series of lyrical, tumultuous, and painful scenes in the lives of three Chinese -Americans named Man, Woman and Son. To each, the American Dream has a different meaning. Fraught with spare imagery that flows through character... Wonderland's monologues, duets, and trios fold in on themselves, contracting, expanding, and creating a shimmering, translucent beauty." - Back Stage

"A brilliantly Brechtian play... sophisticated and lyrical." - Singapore Straits Times

"A tour de force - a reminder of the magic of theatre. Fully deserves all bouquets." - Happening! Singapore




"Calculated Cacophonies: The Queer Asian American Family and the Nonmusical Musical in Chay Yew's Wonderland" (The Journal of American Drama and Theatre)


Wonderland fliers 

"Hitting Close to Home: Playwright Chay Yew explaores what it means to belong - an acutely personal theme for a member of the immigrant and gay communities" - Los Angeles Times 

"American Dreamer: At La Jolla Playhouse, Chay Yew Examines The Wonderland Of His Adopted country" - San Diego Union-Tribune 

"Crazy For Yew: Gay Playwright Premieres Work On Asian Life In America" - Gay and Lesbian Times

"An Asian Wonderland: Playhouse poised to unveil emerging talent's new work"  - Press Telegram

"Chay  Yew: The America-based Singapore playwright, whose work earned kudos in Time magazine, talks candidly to Angela Lee about self-identity" - 8 Days 

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