The DNA Trail: A Genealogy of Short Plays about Ancestry, Identity and Utter Confusion
/ by R. Sheth

March 16, 2010
By Lawrence Bommer

“Who am I?” That question was posed by this enterprising Asian-American theater company to seven writers. Their responses to issues of identity were inspired by genealogical DNA tests they took—with varying and maddening results.

Playful and philosophical, personal and educational, the short works, warmly staged by Steve Scott, richly explore the mystery of ancestry, specifically how much we owe to the gene pool we swam in and how free we are to forge a future different from the cumulative contributions of centuries of chromosomes.

Elizabeth Wong’s “Finding Your Inner Zulu ” imagines herself and her sister hurtling through her double helix to find a way to trigger a gene for a higher height in basketball. (It won’t work that way…) Velina Hasu Houston searches for a very different sister: Separated at birth, they discover common ground in the prospect of breast cancer and the death of a baby.

In Shishir Kurup’s “Bolt from the Blue ” the connection is between brothers, separated as much as connected by the Internet. Here the trigger for a renewed bond is the younger brother’s depression, a classic case of nature worsened by nurture. Funny and fierce, David Henry Hwang’s “A Very DNA Reunion” spoofs a teenage boy’s desperate need to prove that Genghis Khan and Cleopatra are his REAL family, his actual, seemingly arbitrary, loved ones.

Artistic director Jamil Khoury’s ‘WASP: White Arab Slovak Pole ” exuberantly illustrates the plight of a gay man who’s assumed to be stereotypes that he’s not and overlooked for who he is. Lina Patel’s “That Could Be You ” celebrates the flexibility of anatomy as destiny. Finally, Philip Kan Gotanda’s “Child Is Father to the Man ” memorializes a dad whose death defines the son as much as his birth ever could.