I’d already planned to see Lauren Yee‘s Cambodian Rock Band at South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, but my excitement has been building since receiving a text from a friend who was there for opening night. She said: “Cambodian Rock Band at SCR!!!!! Go, go, go!”

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cambodian rock band south coast repertoryThe play officially opened Friday, March 9, and it runs through March 25. Says SCR: “Part comedy, part mystery and part rock concert, playwright Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band explores an overlooked chapter of history—1970s Cambodia with its vibrant surf-rock music scene and then-under the Khmer Rouge regime… Cambodian Rock Band is set in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and moves back and forth in time. It’s the story of a young Cambodian American who has found evidence that could finally put away one of the Khmer Rouge’s chief henchman, a man who oversaw the country’s most notorious prison. But her work is far from done. Her Dad shows up unannounced—his first time back in Cambodia since fleeing 30 years ago— and it’s clear that this isn’t just a pleasure trip for him.”

My friend adds, “Take a box of Kleenex.”

The play, which is the recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award, is a world premiere and was commissioned by South Coast Repertory thorough its CrossRoads program, which develops plays that explore the cultural diversity of Orange County through artist residencies. It features songs by the Long Beach-based band Dengue Fever and is directed by Chay Yew

“Since I first heard Dengue Fever’s music, I’ve been obsessed with the history of Cambodia’s surf-rock scene and the country’s dark Khmer Rouge years, when so many people, including those in the arts, perished,” Yee said. “I never knew quite how to write about it in a way that celebrated the individuals behind the music. Until now.”

Special Events:

  • Post-Show Discussions:  Tuesday, March 13, and Wednesday, March 14. Discuss the play with Cambodian Rock Band cast members during free post-show discussions led by South Coast Repertory’s literary team. Julianne Argyros Stage.
  • Inside the Season: Saturday, March 24, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Led by members of SCR’s literary staff, this lively two-hour session features in-depth interviews with cast members and artists from SCR’s production staff, offering insights into Cambodian Rock Band. The morning includes a guided tour of the set. Julianne Argyros Stage. Tickets are $12 and may be purchased in advance or at the door.
  • ASL-interpreted performance: Saturday, March 24, at 2 p.m.

Cambodian Rock Band is now playing at South Coast Repertory Theatre on the Julianne Argyros Stage. The cast includes Brooke Ishibashi, Abraham Kim, Raymond Lee, Jane Lui, Joe Ngo and Daisuke Tsuji. Tickets are available at SCR.org.

Here’s a taste of Dengue Fever so we’ll all know what they’re like!

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Leona Laurie