The 2018-19 season at San Francisco Playhouse opens this week, with a play which had its World Premiere last season in the Playhouse Sandbox Series – its new works program. Christopher Chen’s You Mean To Do Me Harm proved during this run that it had what it takes to move to Mainstage at the Playhouse, delivering the Bay Area playwright’s dream of having a play produced there.
Chen’s plays, according to his website, “… examine the hidden patterns beneath complex systems: socio-political systems, psychological systems, systems of power”. A multi-award-winning playwright, he has had his works performed across the United States, as well as abroad, and among his impressively long list of successes is Caught, which won a 2017 Obie Award for Playwriting, a Drama League Nomination for Outstanding production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play in 2015, a Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play the same year, and a PHINDIE 2014/2015 Critic’s Award for Best New Play. It was named One of the Top Ten Plays of 2016 by TheaterMania, New York City Theater, Theater Dogs and Seattle’s The Stranger.
Directed by Bill English, You Mean To Do Me Harm revolves around the consequences of an innocuous comment made during a dinner between two interracial couples, opening a Pandora’s box of “Cold War-style paranoia” – raising issues such as Chinese and American foreign relations, the ways in which our lives are affected by our cultural characteristics, and the fragility of personal relations which are the most important to us. Chen describes it as a “…. personal play about the Asian American experience…” and is said to be thrilled that it’s now being given the opportunity to reach a wider audience.
It’s been described as a “… lean, mean, and meticulously crafted drama…” by Huffington Post, as “witty and suspenseful” by the San Francisco Examiner, and “Masterful” by Theater Dogs. Bill English himself says that as the play develops, “….. our grip on what is real and what is imagined starts to slip, as does that of our protagonist, Daniel. Is he being paranoid or victimized by subtle racism? Does he just have an overactive imagination, or are the subtle comments of his wife and friends taking aim at his identity?”
Of the cast who appeared in the Sandbox Series production of You Mean To Do Me Harm, three members are new – Cassidy Brown, Katie Rubin and Jomar Tagatac. Charisse Loriaux appears again in the role she played in the original.
Christopher Chen’s You Mean To Do Me Harm opened at the San Francisco Playhouse on September 18th, and runs until November 3rd. For more information and tickets, contact the box office on 415-677-9596, or visit the San Francisco Playhouse website.
Photographs by Ken Levine
Information sourced from:
San Francisco Playhouse program notes
and Christopher Chen’s website