Artistic director Preston Lane directs the work by Los Angeles-based playwright Alexander Woo, 30, who was commissioned by Triad to create the piece, which is billed as "a wickedly funny farce" in the spirit of the previous Triad hit, The Mystery of Irma Vep.
Chang and Eng were the Siam-born conjoined twins who became so popular in the mid-19th century that the term "Siamese twins" would be linked to the physical condition for the next 150 years. Woo told Playbill On-Line their story was a jumping off point for him. The twins settled in Greensboro, NC; their 21 children would lead to some 1,000 modern-day descendants.
"The play is very loosely based on the hysteria around the fame Chang and End had achieved by the 1830s," Woo said. "At that time they were two of the most famous entertainers in the United States, and the play is set amidst that hysteria, where two of the biggest stars in the country are also these medical taboos."
Woo said Chang and Eng are not characters in the play, which has a "Frankenstein" angle to it. The work of the costume designer will be important: Detachable heads figure into the piece.
"I'm drawn to each play I write for a different reason," Woo explained. "In this particular case, I was drawn to Chang and Eng first because they settled in North Carolina, where the play is being done. As I did more research, I found many issues that were direct parallels to things that were important to me — issues of identity, issues of being Asian in America, issues of duality." The six-actor piece is structured like a farce. "People are running around with each others' heads," Woo said, "so, yes, it's farce. Hopefully, through the farce structure I can explore many ideas that are important to me as well."
Woo is author of Off-Broadway's Forbidden City Blues. Debunked runs Jan. 25-Feb. 15, 2004. Opening night is Jan. 29. An L.A. reading was heard earlier this year, and another workshop-reading is expected before the January 2004 bow.
The Triad's newly-announced 2003-04 season also includes N. Richard Nash's The Rainmaker, directed by Lane, Sept. 21-Oct. 12; Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, by Emily Mann, adapted from the book by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth, Nov. 2-23; David Auburn's Proof, March 14-April 4, 2004; Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, directed by Lane, April 25-May 16, 2004; Alfred Uhry's Driving Miss Daisy June 13-July 11, 2004.
In addition to its six-play mainstage season, Triad Stage brings back its acclaimed one-man holiday show, A Dickens of a Christmas, Dec. 11-14 and 18 -21.
Triad Stage is a not-for-profit regional theatre company based in Greensboro's downtown historic district. All productions are created in Greensboro using a combination of local and national talent.
For information, call (336) 272-0160, or visit www.triadstage.org.