Four women occupy the stage, their bodies and lives inextricably connected to each other in planes of space and time. Like a stream of consciousness, their lives ebb and flow together, each its own entity, yet inextricably bound to each other. In the women’s house, there is always a leak, a broken stove, something that is not quite right. Nothing ever stays fixed, much like how none of their story is ever fixed in time.
The play, “Architecture of Rain,” written by Stephani Kuo ‘17 and directed by Gregory Ng ‘18 premieres Thursday October 6th. It chronicles the living memory of a mother and her three daughters. The narrative depicts the fluidity of memory and a family’s struggle to come to terms with the death of the youngest daughter, All-Grown-up. It beautifully and poignantly captures the experience of grief and pain while exploring remembrance and the powerful ways it seems to collapse in on itself.
The play is structured as a collection of memories, with no clear beginning or end. Time is loose, fluid, much like the architecture of rain. It starts in the middle of it all, with the sisters sitting in the house on a rainy day. A handyman walks around the set, while two sisters petulantly whine and aggravate each other. A mother hangs up paintings, trying to decide if the two paintings are straight. A few moments later, the two sisters splash and play in the bathtub with their youngest sister.
Throughout the play, they live in a house that is incomplete, with unfinished corners, and beams of wood that stand on only two opposite corners of the stage, leaving gaping spaces much like the ones in their minds. They fill the void with moments of reflection, angry phone calls, days at the beach, and complaints about the stove that is broken once again.
These moments bleed into each other so much that it is hard to completely piece together who each character is and what they’ve experienced. The play relies less on conventional narrative structure and temporality, and more on emotive resonance. What makes this play so particularly compelling is the relationship of the “two living children,” the ones who must grapple with the realities of living with a dead sister as well as with each other. Particular moments sink heavily into your mind, so much that you can almost feel the pain, as one sister says to another, “It’s like we’re strangers.” Or when the two talk over the phone, their emotions high as one reveals a vulnerability and fear that she has never shown or spoken before.
There is something to be said of the bond that we see between these four Asian women. The challenges of womanhood and the process of coming to terms with loss resonate deeply. The play features an all-Asian cast, but it never makes sweeping generalizations about the “Asian experience.” Instead they let their experiences speak for themselves, an important reminder that white actors are not the only ones who can convey universal, yet nuanced experiences.
Leaving the play is disorienting; it is like waking from a lucid dream — you are conscious of its surreality, but still moved by the loose stream of events that you experienced. It is a play that demands to be contemplated, leaving you grasping for bits and pieces to make sense of the whole. It’s much like wading in your own memories, from the fuzzy ones from your early childhood that bubble up to the surface, to the crystalline memories of significant days that punctuate your life.