Sokeo Ros’s magnum opus, now being performed at the Everett Company/Stage/School in Providence, RI is about perfect. It is not perfect in that there aren’t any imperfections. It is perfect in that it was physically impressive, emotionally moving and I came away feeling like I now know this man.
This is a personal story that flips abruptly back and forth between Sokeo’s parent’s experience in Cambodia and Thailand during the time of the Khmer Rouge and his struggles growing up in an impoverished neighborhood of Providence. There are modern touches like projections and innovative offstage narration, but the simplicity of the stage production is what is most striking. 90% of the show includes a stage with only Sokeo and 10 or 15 cardboard boxes that can apparently be used to represent people and specific environments.
Sokeo appears to be made of steel. His movements are shockingly powerful. You can feel his strength and skill as a dancer. The background dancers that come and go serve as a calming relief from the intensity of the story.
We follow Sokeo’s journey as he learns to suppress his emotions for self-preservation and then he learns again to shed real tears in public for basically the same purpose. Sokeo needs his production to be good, as does his theater group and his community. This is a story of an artist realizing himself through engrossing stories of strife, but also told with a sharp sense of humor.