“Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon,” presented by Lookingglass Theatre, is the story of two first-generation Asian American renegades on a spree of crime and passion through the backroads of the Midwest. I know what you’re thinking, “Sure, we’ve seen this before.” But have you seen it with the couple being pursued by a bloodthirsty human trafficker and his milksop lackey, and a gung-ho, pistol-wielding grandma and her burnout son close behind?
From the mind of Matthew C. Yee, who wrote both book and music and plays the Charlie of the title, comes a play like a fusion between “Pulp Fiction” and “Buckaroo Banzai” with country-western musical numbers. Scenic design by Yu Shibagaki is like a Cracker Barrel lobby on steroids, a mixture of Western and Chinese bric-a-brac cluttering the walls from floor to ceiling. Director Amanda Dehnert conducts a cast of lovable misfits that deliver witty and comedic repartee with action that is over-the-top, but shy of slapstick.
Lucy (Aurora Adachi-Winter) is a loose cannon and compulsive liar who is trying to distance herself from a shady past. Charlie meets Lucy at a bar just after she assaults a bride during her bachelorette party (because how annoying!) and it is love at first sight. Within no time they are married and living like outlaws, funding their hedonist lifestyle by knocking over a convenience store on their way to the cabin in the woods owned by Charlie’s family. Both are first-generation children of Asian immigrants and doubly rebel against traditional Asian stereotypes and contemporary social norms.
But nothing goes as planned. They botch the robbery. The surveillance video goes viral and a manhunt ensues. At a truck stop they rescue-kidnap Bao (Harmony Zhang), a Chinese woman brought to the United States illegally to pay off her sister’s debt. Together they elude Bao’s captor, Gabriel (Matt Bittner), a toady for the big boss, Martin (Doug Pawlik). Meanwhile, Charlie’s brother and aspiring militia recruit, Peter (Rammel Chan), does all he can to throw his tenacious supervisor, Feinberg (Mary Williamson), off their trail. On top of that, Charlie’s Grandma (Wai Ching Ho) will stop at nothing to save her “number one grandson,” and enlists the help of her deadbeat son, Jeff (Daniel Lee Smith), whose “drunken master technique” of video game playing may just come in handy. These characters converge at the family’s woodland cabin for a raucous brouhaha—and they don’t all make it out alive.
The show is a balance of ridiculous, fun and serious. The cast doubles as musicians, complete with a tattooed drug dealer in a pink leotard on bass. The actors’ performances are big and animated and characters are clearly defined. A theme of debunking Asian stereotypes weaves itself through the story. Even the bad guy comes off as progressive—“It’s Asian, not oriental.”
The absurd premise disarms with charm and sneaks in topics of cultural relevance while your guard is down. Ridiculous, fun and with a healthy dose of dark humor, “Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon” tells a familiar tale of two lovers on the run in a way we’ve never seen before.
“Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon” at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 North Michigan. Tickets, $40-$60, lookingglasstheatre.org. Through July 16.