Cal State Long Beach’s “The Missing Piece” recapped
By Eric Chuk
The Cambodian Student Society (CSS) hosted a successful culture show on Sunday, March 25th at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center on the campus of California State University, Long Beach. The show was notable for its overall bilingualism and refreshingly creative story line—a modern, Khmer-inflected reinterpretation of the Wizard of Oz, incorporating history, action (martial arts), humor, and romance.
The play format, unusual for CSS, followed five main characters who were mysteriously transported to the Cambodia of yore: Boran, an amiable young man whose as-if Hanuman heroics save a village (paralleling Dorothy’s arrival in Oz); his pet-like companion Ah Touch, often a source of comedic relief; Romdoul, a contemporary/classical dancer; Kunthea, a waifish girl (reminiscent of Oz’s cowardly lion) struggling to learn the Khmer language; and Samouth, a soulful singer mistaken for Sinn Sisamouth. Along the way, they meet other colorful characters: a cryptic old man who tells them to follow the “yellow k’tael road” through the jungle to get back home, cackling witches who the five friends must outmaneuver, and a flirtatious but helpful prince.
Master of ceremonies duties were handled by two female former presidents of CSS (a nod to the almost exclusively female cabinet of officers this year), whose self-deprecating banter was just right for telling the audience of approximately 750 what to expect next while also providing time for brief transitions between certain scenes. Interspersed during the two and a half hours of the performances were graceful classical dances by two well-known local troupes and a folk dance by CSS members.
Other highlights included an opening rendition of chhayam drumming with energetic flair and a concluding hip-hop dance number, both by CSS members as well. By the time of the curtain call at the end, it was clear that as with any successful cultural event, much thought and effort had gone into the production, and the jubilant cast and crew crowded onto the stage to receive very deserved applause. In all, CSS presented a memorable 28th annual culture show, paying tribute to the past while making it uniquely their own and relatable—a true fusion of American and Khmer themes that will hopefully serve as inspiration for years to come.
Austin Bou as ”Boran”
Richard Chum as “Ah Touch”
Debbie Phak as ”Romdoul”
Alisa Man as ”Kunthea”
Peter Duong as ”Samouth”
More standout moments:
- confident a cappella American anthem by Raimondel Men, and Khmer anthem sung by CSS members in unison
- president Brenda Man’s welcome speech in full Khmer and English, with special recognition of longtime sponsor Mkott Pich Jewelry
- CSS alumni Alex Dy and Malay Kim showing their continued support by starring in fight scenes
- the mellifluous vocal stylings of Peter Duong, who did credit to his character’s namesake
- the witches’ shrieking, sidling entry on stage
- ending on a happy note, with Boran awaking from his reverie more enlightened about Cambodia
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