Review: “June is the First Fall” at New Ohio Theatre

Photo: June Is the First Fall explores themes of identity, sexuality, family and immigration. Photo courtesy of Maria Barnova

Photo: June Is the First Fall explores themes of identity, sexuality, family and immigration. Photo courtesy of Maria Barnova

  • Anthony J. Piccione, Associate New York Critic

There’s no shortage of new plays being written in 2019 that deal with LGBTQ issues, and the continued discrimination that many members of the LGBTQ community continue to face to this day. However, it’s not every day we see a play that explores the specific strain of homophobia that still runs strong among older generations in the Asian-American community. Yet June is the First Fall, now running at New Ohio Theatre, does an outstanding job at doing exactly that.

Written by Chinese playwright Yilong Liu, the play follows the story of a young man who is returning home to Hawaii while on break from college at NYU, where he is forced to confront his father’s and sister’s feelings about his sexuality, as well as the traumatic memories of his late mother’s verbal abuse. While the role of Asian culture is certainly present in this play, the theme that lies at the core of the plot is the complex emotions and strong tensions that many parents and their LGBTQ children face even to this day. That’s something that many young people across all races and cultures can relate to, and is explored in-depth and on a very human level in this play.

Under the direction of Michael Leibenluft, the ensemble of five actors do a flawless job and bringing these emotionally and psychologically complex characters to life. While the play itself is great in any case, it takes a truly gifted cast to make the production as spectacular and engaging as it ultimately was. The show’s atmosphere is also enhanced by the beautiful set design of Jean Kim, which proves to be easily the most outstanding element of the production, outside of the acting and writing.

While many plays deal with issues of race, culture, and sexuality, few weave them all together – and leave the same potent emotional impact – that this play manages to do. Without a doubt, it’s already a strong contender for the best play I’ve seen so far in 2019. If you have the chance to catch it during its final weeks, be sure to do so!

 

JUNE IS THE FIRST FALL

“June is the First Fall” stars Alton Alburo, Chun Cho, Stefani Kuo, Fenton Li, and Karsten Otto.

“June is the First Fall” is written by Yilong Liu and directed by Michael Leibenluft, featuring scenic design by Jean Kim, costume design by An-Lin Dauber, sound design by Michael Costagliola, lighting design by Cha See, dramaturgy by Gaven D. Trinidad, and stage manager Lindsey Hurley.

“June is the First Fall” – presented by Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America – runs at New Ohio Theatre, located at 154 Christopher Street, New York, NY, from March 31st-April 20th.