I’ll be honest. I didn’t love Lauren Yee‘s in a word, playing at the Chance Theater in Anaheim, CA, until October 8. It may just be that I’ve reached my saturation point for absurdist plays that lean heavily on wordplay. If the brief synopsis, “Lauren Yee’s award-winning exploration of grief and word choice,” calls to you, you may feel differently. What I’m sure we’ll agree on, though, is that the Chance is consistently charming, and that any theatre experience there is a good one. 

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When you arrive at the Chance, you’re greeted by the friendliest people. The lobby is so cozy, the bar and bathrooms have the tiniest lines and the theatre itself is the best kind of intimate. Everything about going there is delightful. 

Before each show, Managing Director Casey Long addresses the audience with a lighthearted spiel about what’s coming up and what the evening’s entertainment will be like. Then he conducts a raffle for a prize like a program signed by the show’s cast. Part of his spiel is highlighting that for a subscription fee of only $20/month, theatre lovers can see everything they do all year. That is a screaming deal, folks. 

Back to in a word… On the two-year anniversary of Fiona’s son’s disappearance, she still can’t come to terms with reality. The case is cold as ice, and once-hopeful Fiona now grapples with sadness, grief and bad puns. Her blase husband has moved on, the inept detective has given up and the neighborhood kidnapper keeps introducing himself at the supermarket. In this emotional and comedic look at how tragedy can distort our speech and reality, ordinary words and turns of phrase take on new meanings as Fiona relives one fateful day. Surreal, funny, and potent, in a word explores the complexity of language and how it can impact the ways we see and feel about the world around us.

While speaking with Theatre Bay Area in San Francisco, playwright Yee said: “ I’m really interested in narrative, and control of the narrative, and how different word choice dictates how you might feel about a certain topic. Throughout the play, you have Fiona desperately trying to use the correct words to describe what’s going on in her life in a way that she thinks an audience will find palatable. And it’s only when she is able to do that in more truthful, honest, [and] a little bit uglier words that she’s able to exorcise some of those demons.”

Remaining shows are Fridays & Saturdays at 7:45 p.m. and Sundays at 2:45 p.m. through October 8 at the Chance Theater, located at the Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center in Anaheim. Visit chancetheater.com for tickets and to learn about upcoming shows.

Next up at the Chance is Nina Raine‘s Tribes: “Billy is a deaf young man who was raised inside the politically incorrect cocoon of his hearing parents’ house and has learned to communicate by reading lips — but it’s not until Billy meets Sylvia, a young woman fluent in sign language and on the brink of deafness herself, that he finally gets what it feels like to be really understood.”

Leona Laurie