**** Recommended **** Lookingglass Theatre’s world premiere, Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon, directed by Amanda Dehnert, opens with a hard rockin’ tune about – are you ready? – Asian American renegades! Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon is like a fast-moving, energetic concert, with an add-on, a compelling, creative love story told from a unique perspective. I had no idea where the story was going, so it felt like waiting for the inevitable train wreck – and watching the mayhem with that same horrified fascination. 4 Spotlights
Matthew C. Yee, who wrote both book and music for Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon, also stars as the guitar-playing anti-hero Charlie Chan. He recently played Ben Fong-Torres in the Broadway debut of Almost Famous. I remember the first time I saw Yee on stage was in a Chicago Children’s Theatre production of A Year with Frog and Toad. He played the guitar in that show too.
Since the band members (who are also the cast) are wearing cowboy hats, it’s easy to assume the music will be country-western, but there’s some rock and some folk music too. With the lyrics of opening story-song, Asian American Renegades, projected on a large screen on the stage, the audience can sing along if they so choose. The song is an anthem for Lucy (Aurora Adachi-Winter) and Charlie who are determined to smash the high-achieving Chinese-American stereotype to smithereens.
It was love at first sight for Lucy and Charlie, who eloped to avoid the traditional ceremonies, but both of them are broke so they decide to rob a convenience store, rehearsing what they’ll say, but Charlie froze so Lucy did the actual robbery – but Charlie left his hat – with his name inside – behind. With their loot, they go on the run, driving north toward Wisconsin.
Along the way, Lucy meets fresh-from-China Bao (Harmony Zhang) in a rest stop bathroom. When Bao says she’s in America to pay her sister’s debt, Lucy figures out that she’s being trafficked, decides to save her whether she wants to be saved or not, disables her driver and pulls her along with them.
Meanwhile, mall officer Feinberg (Mary Williamson), who has no actual police power, is training Peter Chan (Rammel Chan), in policing without a gun – or any actual authority. Feinberg is hot on the trail of the couple who robbed the convenience store. Meanwhile, a tattooed drug dealer turned trafficker and his minion are also after them.
When Charlie calls his cousin Peter – the wanna-be policeman – for help, he finds out about the pursuit, so he asks his Grandma (Wai Ching Ho). She sends them to a family cabin in Wisconsin but warns them not to get the carpet dirty. Soon after, Grandma (who can’t see a thing) drives the family to the cabin to save her grandson and his bride. The evil trafficker turns out to be Lucy’s ex – a drug dealer who moved up the food chain to more vile crimes. Cue the chase scenes and the Chinese Wedding/Tea Ceremony – what? Trust me, you’ll love it.
Musicians/actors: Daniel Lee Smith (Jeff and other characters); Matt Bittner (Gabriel and more); and Doug Pawlik (Martin, the tattooed trafficker and others).
As I’ve said many times, I love going to Lookingglass, the most flexible theater space in the city! You never know what to expect; as everything from stage location to seating changes for every production. I can remember sitting in baseball bleachers for one play, and rough, wooden Chautauqua pews for another. Kudos to Scenic Designer Yu Shibagaki who placed the Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon stage/bandstand, backed by huge curio shelves filled with intriguing stuff, in the southeast corner of the space with three tiers of seating angled in the opposite corner.
Note: Masks are encouraged but not required.
Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon runs through July 16th at Lookingglass Theatre in the Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago. Discounted parking is available at 875 N. Michigan ($10); Olympia Centre ($11): Water Tower Place ($14 for 4 hours). Validate parking ticket at Lookingglass Box Office. Running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with an intermission.
Performances are: Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:00 pm; Thursdays at 1:30 & 7:00 pm; Fridays at 7:00 pm; Saturdays at 1:30 & 7:00 pm, Sundays at 2:00pm. Tickets start at $35. FYI www.lookingglasstheatre.org/event/lucy-and-charlies-honeymoon-2022/