On the rare occasion that a writing student of mine tries to refute a note I give in class, I immediately shut him or her down with this simple declaration: "Respect your sensei!" And then I pull back to address the whole class with a simple "if you know what's good for you and your future, then you will do everything I tell you to do!"

I hurled enough praise and threats at playwright Paul Kikuchi in my advanced rewriting workshops at East West Players' David Henry Hwang Writers Institute that he was in a constant state of enchantment and nausea. To most of you, that probably doesn't sound very pleasant, but Paul's first play, the Asian-Americans-in-the-afterlife-comedy Ixnay, went on to a world premiere at EWP in 2009.

On the advice of DHHWI counsel, he set aside his second play (are you writers out there committed enough to your craft that you would be willing to abandon a full-length work that you spent months and months creating?!) and began work on the almost family-friendly elder-porn comedy, Wrinkles, which opens this week at EWP.



I caught the play's final preview on Sunday, and it's a raucous crowd-pleaser, so jam-packed with clever jokes and gags that it clearly makes Paul the heir apparent to something. I mean, c'mon, theatre gods, give this man a title!

What's most surprising about his story about a 73-year-old Japanese-American porn star (based on a real-life dude that I, incidentally, blogged about a couple years ago) whose dirty big secret shocks his daughter and grandson is that it has an unexpectedly sweet center. It's themes of family bonding and of sexual freedom as a weapon against old age and death give Wrinkles some lovely emotional moments.

The play is served well by Jeff Liu's nimble direction (have you ever seen the Prince & Jeff show?; oh, man, you are missing out!) and by a dream cast of stage and screen veterans Sab Shimono and Amy Hill (whose comic timing is impeccable); the always-reliable Elizabeth Ho; and spirited newcomer Ki Hong Lee.

Go see this play. Discounts abound! Seriously. If you know what's good for you and your future, then you will do everything I tell you to do!

Wrinkles by Paul Kikuchi runs through March 13, 2011, at East West Players in Los Angeles.

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