Politics, love, deceit, espionage, and betrayal, you may be in Washington D.C. or watching the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre production of M. Butterfly. The play written by David Henry Hwang runs at the theater through January 26. World-renowned Broadway choreographer Jamie H. J. Guan brought his expertise to the production for a week before the show opened. Upon his leaving, Chelsea Anglemyer took over the role of dance captain for the performances.
Linda Ade Brand directs this ambitious and complex production for the theater. Brand is the wife of Robert Gibby Brand who stars as Rene Gallimard. With minimal props and authentic costumes, designed by Genevieve Beller, she brings a superb production to the Kansas City stage.
Opening in a Paris prison the play is the story of a French diplomat, Gallimard who falls in love with a geisha, and the on-again off-again relationship that begins in the 1960’s at the start of the Vietnam War. Robert Gibby Brand is outstanding in the role of the sophisticated yet naive Frenchman. Brand has appeared previously at the Met in Pride and Prejudice and Ragtime among others, but this performance may be the best of his acting career.
Vi Tran co-stars as Song Liling and is making his acting debut at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre. A native of Vietnam, Tran grew up in southwest Kansas. His previous credits include Miss Saigon, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Take Me Out, and Anything Goes among others. Though this is his debut with the Met, he is not new to the Kansas City theater scene; in 2007, The Kansas City Star named him an Emerging Artist for that year. He is immensely talented and is magnificent as the private, alluring, and mysterious Liling.
Nancy Nail who portrays Helga Gallimard, the wife of Gallimard, and Amy Kelly who plays multiple parts (a girl in the magazine, a woman at a party, and a female character named Rene), and Bob Paisley who plays the parts of Marc, Man number 2, and Sharpless do fine jobs in their supporting roles.
Erika Crane Ricketts and Alan Tilson stand out in their supporting roles with the amount of energy they bring to the stage. Ricketts plays Suzuki, Comrade Chin, and Shu-Fang, while Tilson puts his efforts into the parts of M. Toulon (Rene Gallimards boss) and the judge.
M. Butterfly continues through Jan. 26, with 7:30 p.m. performances Wednesday through Saturday and matinees at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Purchase tickets by calling 816-569-3226, on line at Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre website, or in person at the theater between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.