Signature’s pleasant ‘King of the Yees’ pulls you into its zaniness

A shut door is a crucial plot place in Lauren Yee’s “King of the Yees,” but the Signature Theatre manufacturing attracts us ideal in to the play’s profound still amusing world. The visions we experience there — a fairy-tale quest involving whiskey, a kung fu-evoking news bulletin, an FBI operation that unfurls like a gradual-motion John Woo thriller — are so delightfully quirky that you rarely want to cross back again across the threshold.

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At the exact same time, the whimsy in this 2017 do the job by the commonly generated Yee, as winningly staged by director Jennifer Chang, muses touchingly on identity, family members and heritage. Tanya Orellana’s ebullient set places the heritage concept front and middle: Beneath dangling Chinese lanterns stands the aforementioned door — really, double doors, aged and weathered pink, their fashion suggesting classic Chinese architecture.

This scene represents a club in San Francisco’s Chinatown, wherever — a metatheatrical hall of mirrors below — a dramatist named Lauren Yee (Ashley D. Nguyen) is rehearsing a new enjoy about her father, Larry Yee. When Larry himself (Grant Chang) barges in, derailing the rehearsal and introducing a lion dance that Lauren has not scripted, she’s exasperated. But when he goes lacking, she lookups desperately for him by way of a phantasmagoric Chinatown, her quest recalling “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “The Phantom Tollbooth” but with “Miss Saigon” jokes and fortune cookies falling from the sky.

Though infusing heat into split-the-fourth-wall moments — we’re dealt with as the audience at the perform-in-the perform — the forged aces the show’s comedy, which include slapstick and wisecracks about showbiz. In nicely-calibrated straight-man manner, Nguyen’s Lauren radiates nerdy anxiety, while Chang works vulnerability into Larry’s expansive fantastic humor. The other 3 actors appear to have a blast as they job-juggle. Jacob Yeh is specially hilarious as a swaggering gangster named Shrimp Boy, and Sylvia Kwan ably channels oddballs these types of as a surly liquor retail outlet operator. Nicholas Yenson is a riot as Design Ancestor, a Yee family members ancestor whose mincing 21st-century mannerisms belie his antique garb. (Helen Q. Huang designed the witty costumes.)

A great deal humor stems from Jennifer Chang’s route, be it the lights that flicker ominously when Shrimp Boy’s name is talked about or the giddily around-the-top design and style of that FBI scene. It’s an irresistible far more-is-a lot more aesthetic, which has room for Lauren and the colorful lion-dance creature to pas-de-deux with equally regular lion-dance moves and tender-shoe. (Chua Martial Arts provided lion-dance coaching.)

Amid the delectable zaniness, the director, Nguyen and especially Grant Chang come across the psychological charge in the father-daughter romance, which recalls spouse and children bonds in Yee’s plays “The Fantastic Leap” and “Cambodian Rock Band” (found domestically at Spherical Property Theatre and Arena Phase, respectively). The father or mother-child motif below entwines with the themes of neighborhood, heritage and alienation — the nervousness and responsibility that occur with both belonging and not belonging.

“All you gotta do is phone on the ancestors to support these doorways open up,” Larry assures Lauren at a single issue. Fortunately for us, the approach turns out to be substantially extra complex.

King of the Yees, by Lauren Yee. Directed by Jennifer Chang assistant director, Gregory Keng Strasser lights layout, Minjoo Kim seem design and authentic music, Matthew M. Nielson fight choreography, Casey Kaleba. About 2 hrs. $40-$93. Via Oct. 22 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. 703-820-9771.

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