Good Enemy, is a new production created by playwright Yilong Liu (The Book of Mountains and Seas, June is The First Fall). It was initially performed live on stage, back in October 2022 at the Minetta Lane Theater, New York City and has now become one of the plays on Audible Theatre’s slate.
Starring Francis Jue as Howard and Geena Quintos as Momo among others, Good Enemy follows a father, Howard, as he learns that closing the door to his past means shutting his daughter out. When Howard makes a surprise cross-country trip to visit his college-aged, TikTok-loving daughter, he’s forced to confront the realities of their relationship and the rift between them—a rift caused by Howard’s refusal to face memories of his life as a young man in China.
A deeply layered play all about bridging generational gaps between father and daughter and secrets of the past, Good Enemy explores the yearning for family love and the search for answers as each character learns that the past doesn’t define the present and the future.
A very emotional roller coaster of a story, that’s for sure, and one which requires a lot of inspiration to write and create. This was a question posed to Liu in a recent interview with AsAmNews. Liu mentioned that the inspiration to write Good Enemy came at the most difficult time during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic back in 2020.
He said he was stuck at home in Brooklyn quarantining whilst his parents were back home in China adhering to the stay-at-home orders imposed. Having been away from China and his parents for eighteen years, reconnecting with them during the pandemic was awkward at first, but with time it changed their relationship for the better. This was Liu’s inspiration.
“Being away from China for almost two decades, there was distance between me and my parents when we were talking over video chat. I would force myself to call them every day and gradually the awkwardness broke, and my parents started to open up about their childhood and what life was like for them. This is when I got inspired”, Liu discussed.
For Jue, who plays Howard – the father in the play, it was the father-daughter relationship that attracted him to the role. Jue mentioned that personally his own father passed away back in 2015 from Alzheimer’s, and before he passed he and other family members rushed around to try to collect information about his father’s childhood and past.
“Before my own father passed away from Alzheimer’s back in 2015, me and my siblings would rush around to try to understand my father’s past. The stories he told whilst being unwell was proven to be untrue, according to our mother. After a lot of constant pushing our mother started to tell all of the truth about her and my father’s past. This is why I enjoyed working in this play as it is about family pasts and secrets”, Jue said.
From a stage play that was performed live back in October 2022, Good Enemy is now adapted into an Audible, so the entire play and how it is performed and expressed is through voice work. This does pose an obstacle because being presented in audio format means that the voice work needs to represent all the emotions and stage work a live play would show.
“That is a very interesting question. One of the biggest obstacles and differences when doing audio work as opposed to stage work is thinking that I am essentially inviting listeners to be a part of the play. On stage, many of the decisions on portrayals are already decided but with audio/voice work its like sink or swim with how listeners interpret the play just by voice. That is the challenge I thrived on the most”, Jue mentioned.
“Initially, I was elated that Good Enemy was able to be performed live on stage, because we discovered more about the play and about ourselves and how we dialogued with the audience. This helped when deciding how we present this same sensation just with audio. At the end of the day we want to give enough in audio for the listeners to use their own imagination and create their own relationship with the play”, Liu passionately said.
For anything that is presented in an audio format, it is all about how listeners interpret the messages and meanings behind the play. For Liu, when the play was performed live, he saw large numbers of Chinese immigrants attending the show and providing him feedback that they felt the emotions from the play because they missed their parents and families back home in China. He also hopes that listeners who interact with Good Enemy on Audible can feel and have the same emotions.
“Seeing all the Chinese faces in the audience when we were performing live and the emotions they showed and told me afterwards about being separated from families, is the feeling I hope listeners can get with the audible. With anti-Asian violence and racism, I hope listeners can grasp and understand these serious messages whilst enjoying listening to the play”, Liu expressed.
Jue hopes that with the ease of accessibility to the play, a younger generation of Chinese/Asian Americans can appreciate their parents, learn about their pasts and invite their parents to listen to the play and be open to sharing their life stories.
“I have been lucky that the greats like David Henry Hwang have mentored me on live theater acting and I can put these skills to work in both live and in audio format. I hope being on Audible, the play is more accessible for a younger generation of Asian Americans and that they can learn to close gaps in the relationships with their parents by listening to them and reflect on the stories and lessons they are told”.
Good Enemy can be found on Audible as part of Audible’s Theater programming section.
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