Family First in “Fast Company” (4.5 Stars)

By Michele Markarian

‘Fast Company’ - Written by Carla Ching;  Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara;  Presented by Lyric Stage Company of Boston, 140 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA, through March 27.

Blue and H are about to embark on a million and a half dollar con – a forgery of a rare comic book, of which there are only ten in the world. Right before it’s a done deal, someone makes off with the original, leaving Blue in the lurch. Blue seeks the help of Francis, a magician who is tired of the con game and wants out. After helping Blue figure out that it’s H who has taken the original, Francis agrees to jump in the game, but with conditions. The first is that Blue must agree that it will be her last con, and the second is that Blue allows Francis to enlist the aid of another con artist, Mabel. Blue begrudgingly agrees to both, and that’s when the game begins.

So what do Blue, H, Francis and Mabel have in common? They all have the last name of Kwan, and they are related. Mabel is Francis’s biological mother, who was married to the father of Blue and H, and raising all three of them as siblings. Like all family members, each is trapped in the eyes of the others by their past behaviors. Blue, the youngest, is considered the least adept at crime because, at the age of ten, she failed to pass a test administered by Mabel, who did this to each of her children at that age as a way to gauge their ingenuity. H, who is bad with money, tends to flee when things get too hairy.  Francis is the caretaker. And Mabel makes the Tiger Mom look like Carol Brady. 

Playwright Carla Ching cleverly uses con artist terminology to define each family member’s role within the con – there’s the Inside Man, the Lure, the Roper, and the Fixer.  Like any true dysfunctional family, the roles we play within the group keep changing, and Ching’s characters don’t disappoint. Despite the fact that at times, they treat each other very badly, the Kwans relate to one another with a world weary acceptance that, like most families, means they’re stuck with one another.

The cast of four is excellent.  As H, Michael Hisamoto has a ruefulness that belies his sensitivity; of all of them, he seems the least adept at conning, if only because of his kind nature. Theresa Nguyen plays Blue with a tough, frustrated intelligence; she wants to prove to her family that she’s not the ten year old who did the worst on Mabel’s test. Tyler Simahk’s Francis is commanding, with all the disdainful sympathy of the oldest child. Lin-Ann Ching Kocar, as Mabel, is cool and guarded, whose concern for her children slips out in subtle ways.  M. Bevan O’Gara’s direction is tight, precise in a way that complements the script perfectly. Cameron Anderson’s scenic design is a marvel, with its hidden doors and various levels, perfect for a family that hides itself from one another by shifting roles. 

Surprises are what make life interesting, and “Fast Company” is a surprise – this audience member had no idea where the play was going.  But it was a great ride, and an illuminating one – I felt I understood my own family a little better after watching this.  Maybe you will, too. For more info, go to: www.lyricstage.com