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  Cambodian Rock Band at Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph

Cambodian Rock Band

Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph
2433 N. Lincoln Ave Chicago

Part comedy, part mystery, part rock concert, this thrilling story toggles back and forth in time, as father and daughter face the music of the past. Neary, a young Cambodian American, has found evidence that could finally put away individuals who carried out the Cambodian genocide. But her work is far from done. When Dad shows up unannounced-his first return to Cambodia since fleeing 30 years ago-it's clear this isn't just a pleasure trip. A wild rock-and-roll journey through the eyes of father and daughter, Artistic Director Chay Yew brings the world premiere journey of Lauren Yee's (Samsara) Cambodian Rock Band from South Coast Repertory Theatre to Victory Gardens.

Thru - May 12, 2019

Tuesdays: 7:30pm
Wednesdays: 7:30pm
Thursdays: 7:30pm
Fridays: 7:30pm
Saturdays: 3:00pm & 7:30pm
Sundays: 3:00pm

Price: $32-$65

Show Type: Comedy/Drama

Box Office: 773-871-3000

Running Time: 2hrs, 10mins

Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph Seating Chart

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  Cambodian Rock Band Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...The most fun you can ever have as a critic is watching a talented scribe take a great leap - in both thematic ambition and theatrical accomplishment. "Cambodian Rock Band," already the winner of a major new-play prize and now on stage in Chicago at the Victory Gardens, is precisely that moment for the talented playwright Lauren Yee."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...Crazily clever and compelling, this play is a joyful work about a genocidal history, a gentle dramedy about a father-daughter relationship, an increasingly intense thriller about a friendship put into the most unfriendly of circumstances, a tragi-comedy about a country where music was in its soul until it was banned, and a tale of pursuing justice when survival and innocence are contradictions."
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Steven Oxman

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...The plot follows Neary (Aja Wiltshire), the U.S.-raised daughter of Chum (Greg Watanabe), a survivor of the Khmer Rouge. Central to Chum's story is Duch (Rammel Chan), overseer of the S-21 interrogation and detention center. Numbers vary, but somewhere between 12,000 and 20,000 people were imprisoned in S-21. Only 12 survived. Yee uses those numbers to propel the plot, weaving history and fiction into a drama that constantly surprises, even when you can see what's coming."
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Catey Sullivan

Windy City Times - Highly Recommended

"...Cambodian Rock Band makes Victory Gardens the go-to, high-energy Off-Loop theater of the moment, thanks to a fictional rock band playing songs composed by Dengue Fever, the real U.S. rock band heavily inspired by 1960s-1970s Cambodian pop/rock. The songs are played and sung by the actors, and it's no mean feat to field an all-Asian cast with both quality acting and musical chops, which wouldn't have been possible in Chicago 15 years ago."
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Jonathan Abarbanel

Time Out Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Watanabe is the play’s frontman, and his live-wire performance is the production’s greatest asset, but he is surrounded by wonderful side players. In addition to Wiltshire, the cast includes Matthew Yee in two superb turns—as Neary’s boyfriend and as the young Chum’s best friend—and a fabulous Rammel Chan, who plays the show’s devilish narrator and captures every layer of the character, from the hilarious to the horrifying. The cast also doubles as the show’s live band, knocking out tunes that encapsulate the play’s marriage of substance and style. This was the kind of music played by Chum and his friends—the sound the Khmer Rouge sought to wipe out—and there’s no way to hear it, joyful though it is, without a sense of loss. The guitars shred your heart."
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Alex Huntsberger

Stage and Cinema - Highly Recommended

"...In little over two hours, with huge help from hard-hitting songs by Dengue Fever and classic Cambodian “oldies,” Lee connects the vitality of a nation’s popular music in the ’70s, the shame of its descent into genocide, and the fear of death that shapes survival to a daughter’s quest for justice and a father’s emancipation from survivor guilt."
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Lawrence Bommer

Let's Play at ChicagoNow - Highly Recommended

"...Cambodian Rock Band is a compelling story about how Pol Pot, a political leader of the communist Khmer Rouge government killed an estimated 1.5 to 2 million Cambodians. Chan who is the narrator and evil antagonist named, Duch transports us back to when a group of young Cambodians who were part of a Phnom Penh rock group seeking to record their Cambodian style pop music. Chum, who begs his family to stay one more week so he can worship at the temple, uses the fictitious story so he can record with his band before they leave. Chum's lie to his parents will be a fatal error he will soon regret, as things in Cambodia take an astonishing shift and The Khmer Rouge changes his life forever."
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Rick and Brenda McCain

NewCity Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Lauren Yee is one of this country's premier playwrights, her works transcending genre and form, tapping into emotional truths embedded in deep cultural specificity. To see a Lauren Yee play is to take a glimpse into the hope and promise of how the American theater can truly thrive and succeed. "Cambodian Rock Band" is no exception. So, what are you waiting for? The band's ready to play."
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Ben Kaye

WTTW - Highly Recommended

"...“Cambodian Rock Band,” Lauren Yee’s intense, highly original, richly theatrical play with music is now in a brilliantly realized production at Victory Gardens Theater vividly directed by Marti Lyons. The play explores a father’s efforts to shield his daughter from the darker truths of his experiences during the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s, and, most crucially, to prevent her from learning things about him that might result in his losing her love. At the same time, his adult daughter is involved in legal efforts to bring to justice the aged leaders of the Khmer Rouge - the brutal communist regime that, between 1975 and 1979 was responsible for the deaths of as many as 3 million of their fellow Cambodians."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...This richly layered play, part musical, part drama, is a testament to the resiliency and power of the artist and the art he creates. It's a brilliant, exciting and soul-searching mixture of humor, brutal honesty and imaginative staging, bringing a somewhat forgotten chapter of history to light. This challenging, brilliantly produced production may be Victory Gardens' finest in recent years, and it's a definite must-see for serious Chicago theatergoers."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"...“Cambodian Rock Band” is a major artistic event on the Chicagoland theater scene. It’s rare that a new play comes to town that works so well at all levels–script, acting, directing, and design (not to mention music). Lauren Yee has made a name for herself among the younger American playwrights of the new millennium but the creativity and writing chops she displays in “Cambodian Rock Band” move her into the top rank. And the Victory Gardens Theater has performed a public service in presenting her high risk and demanding play with such skill."
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Dan Zeff

Third Coast Review - Highly Recommended

"...The six performers in director Lyons’ crew are superbly cast. Most of them play multiple roles and all six are musicians. The band is made up of guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion and vocals. Matt McNelly is music director and Mikhail Fiskel is sound designer. Lyons’ nimble direction keeps the flow from era to era moving smoothly and successfully merges the music with the drama. The musical finale brings all six on stage to play two danceable and tappable songs."
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Nancy Bishop

Chicago On Stage - Highly Recommended

"...It isn’t often that you find a play that, while being thoroughly entertaining, also opens your eyes to something important that you never knew about before. Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band is one such play for me: an amazing pastiche of rock concert, history play, mystery, and family drama that resonates with our modern era, it plays out powerfully on the Victory Gardens Theater stage under the direction of Marti Lyons."
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Karen Topham

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   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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