By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
As you might well expect from a play called “The Brothers Paranormal,” certain thriller aspects of the paranormal goings-on have to remain hidden from the general public. But director Mimi Katano was willing to let a few pennies drop.
“We really can’t give out the whole plot because we would give away things that the audience should discover when they come to see it,” stressed Katano, who’s directing the show for Seattle’s Pork Filled Productions (PFP). “That said, the essential players are two Thai brothers who are embarking on the ghost hunting business, and a Louisiana couple who was displaced after Hurricane Katrina and think there is a ghost in their house.
“But it runs far deeper. The play deals with immigrant struggles, trauma of displacement, grief, mental illness, and, ultimately, redemption. It is a brilliantly constructed play that is incredibly thought-provoking on many levels.”
Katano, a Tokyo native who’s lived in Seattle since 1999, had never worked with PFP before. But the producers at the company— the longest-running Asian American drama group in the Pacific Northwest—discovered the play and its author, Thai American playwright Prince Gomolvilas, and decided to produce its West Coast premiere.
Actor Sean Nguyen, cast as Max, the younger Thai brother, had also never worked with PFP before this show. But he auditioned last spring and was happy to join the cast.
Nguyen grew up in Renton, concentrating on math and science and mulled over becoming a psychiatrist, a lawyer, or an environmental scientist. He credited his big sister, who set him binge-watching “How I Met Your Mother,” for setting him on the dramatic path. He became obsessed with the show’s intricate workings and eventually, obsessed with acting himself.
Asked about his “Paranormal Brothers” character, Nguyen also emphasizes that he doesn’t want to give away too much. He admitted, “One of the best things about him is his journey throughout the play. The best thing about the other characters are the dynamics of their relationships with one another…
“The most challenging part of the show is ensuring that the character’s arc and journey come across clearly. Max goes through this journey and I want to make sure the audience is right there with him. This is my first lead role in a stage production, so I’m a bit nervous with how I bring Max to life, especially when the story itself is absolutely beautiful.”
The play features six characters in total, each complex, each a product of a different background, different family issues. The two brothers struggle to find common ground in the name of both work and family, and their disparate backgrounds and psyches sometimes makes that difficult.
The overall challenge, said Katano, was to deliver each character fully, and integrate them efficiently into the overall story. She thanked Prince Gomolvilas himself, for being open to long conversations about the work. She asked him many questions before rehearsals started, then many follow-up questions. He showed patience and understanding throughout.
“Another aspect is PFP,” she added. “The producers are very hands-on, to support, but not to back-seat drive. They have provided me and the cast with a dramaturg (a specialist in theatrical techniques), a Thai cultural consultant, Thai language/accent coach, paranormal specialist, and mental health specialist.
“Their commitment to do things the right way has provided such a safe place to create. And lastly, the cast. I have six very talented and intelligent actors with whom I’ve had many meaningful discussions. It has been a pleasure to unpack this gem of a script with this specific group of people.”
“The Brothers Paranormal” plays from Oct. 26—Nov. 16 at the Theatre Off Jackson, 409 7th Avenue South in Seattle. For showtimes, prices, and other information, visit porkfilled.com/wp/the-brothers-paranormal-page.
Andrew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.