By Chance Morgan
Love, legacy and identity are universal themes and rich veins for artistic exploration. In “Breaking Rules, Broken Hearts: Loving Across Borders,” Ada Cheng tells of transcending cultural, national, personal, physical and spiritual borders that have shaped her.
Ms. Cheng discusses her childhood in Taiwan. She is raised by an abusive, womanizing father and a troubled mother who projected her inadequacies and fears onto her child. In her twenties, Ms. Cheng immigrates to the United States, determined to find herself and never return to her birthplace. She pursues an academic career (earning a doctorate in sociology and tenure at DePaul University) and meaningful personal relationships (where she has markedly less success).
Her stories of troubles with love is where Ms. Cheng shines, pouring the raw emotional honesty of painful memories. There is the innocent joy of childhood eroded by her father’s rage and her mother’s sadness. Then, depression and self-loathing caused by living with an abusive romantic partner, and the frustration and terror of leaving them behind. Finally, the denial and hopelessness of trying to ‘fix’ someone to win their love, a trap into which many people fall. Throughout these difficulties, Ms. Cheng experiences an interesting duality: the happiness of great personal achievement (Ms. Cheng is, in fact, the first immigrant woman of color to achieve tenure at her department at DePaul), and the negativity of a life too rich in suffering and tragically deficient in love.
Ms. Cheng’s story is stirring, heartbreaking, and has tremendous potential, though it would benefit from streamlining and a tighter focus on her emotional journey. Her performance is energetic and earnest, even while her academic background is apparent in her consistent, almost metronomic vocal delivery that evokes more of the classroom than the stage. Much like “Breaking Rules, Broken Hearts: Loving Across Borders,” none of us is perfect. And just like us, this show contains the power, through discipline and growth, to become truly magnificent.
“Breaking Rules, Broken Hearts: Loving across Borders”
Written and Performed by Ada Cheng
Oct. 13 at 6pm
Director: Jonald Reyes
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
CHANCE MORGAN is a writer and director currently based in New Jersey. He has worked for Dorset Theatre Festival, Northern Stage, and Bay Street Theatre. He is a graduate of Colorado Mesa University’s theatre program, and spends his time developing his screenplays and musicals.