Monday, October 24, 2011

If your colors were like my dreams

A friend of a friend was in "Year Zero" at a local theatre, so I went to see it. The play focuses on young Cambodian Americans growing up in Southern California and the legacy of the Killing Fields in their lives.

It's definitely a drama, but it's interspersed with many moments of comedy - which, I think, made it more real. Aside from the incredibly heavy topic of the Killing Fields, the play also addressed school bullying, gang members, prison terms, reincarnation, and the death of a parent. And amid all that, it managed to capture the funny and tender moments of sibling relationships, teenage angst, and old flames rekindled.

One of the central themes that struck me was the idea of running away in order to survive. Each character runs away from something (bullies, repressed memories, a gang war) - even going back to their parents who fled a genocidal regime. But they're also running toward a slightly more stable, if uncertain future: college, a new home, the promise of financial stability, or simply being alive.

It reminded me of high school, where second-generation peers from immigrant families faced a lot of the same push-and-pull waves of culture, memory, and dreams.

At one point in the play, two characters debate reincarnation and how they would like to be reborn: with absolutely no memories of their previous lives, or knowing and remembering everything from the past. In the end, their "Year Zero" is reset mid-stream - and the only choice they get is to decide whether or not to run towards rebirth.

It's a sobering thought, to think that survival can be so similar to reincarnation.

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