In Julia Cho’s The Architecture of Loss, a boy plummets into a black hole. The kid, David, sprinted out of his house in Tucson, and is still missing eight years later when the play begins. The plot centers on how David’s disappearance haunts his broken family—mother, father, sister, and grandfather.
Through this multigenerational tale, Cho explores many potentially rich story lines. The grandfather, a Korean War veteran, is tormented by his wartime actions and his lifelong abuse of his Korean wife. Their daughter struggles with identity issues even as she confronts her own broken marriage and the loss of her son. Her alcoholic husband returns home reformed 14 years after abandoning his family. And their teenage daughter looks for love with a married man.
The playwright wins points for ambition—and a few powerfully written scenes—but she has taken on too many subjects to do justice to any of them, and her heavy-handed symbolism weighs things down. Unfortunately, director Chay Yew supports the play’s metaphoric content rather than its physical reality. In Riccardo Hernandez’s pretty but conceptually problematic set—white furniture on a floor strewn with sand—people tread on the desert landscape inside and out. Though we’re pointedly told it’s 116 degrees, why does no one look hot?
Yet moments of genuine emotion do break through the contrivances: Mia Katigbak and Victor Slezak, as the reunited husband and wife, finally bond in their agonies; Will Marchetti makes the old man a pitiable fallen tyrant.
The missing boy, though, seems merely a structural device—a planet around which the other characters are meant to orbit. But the center does not hold, and their stories are strewn helter-skelter into space.