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Extraordinary Chambers

Incongruity is both striking and informative. Three thousand people are killed by planes crashing into buildings, and a global "War on Terror" ensues, creating a new lens through which the world is observed with fear and suspicion. Twenty-five years earlier and half a world away, 2 million people are massacred, wiping out one-fifth of a country's population, but it's nary a blip on the global consciousness. The latter scenario, in case you don't recall, was the 1970s Cambodian genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. Its aftermath in 2008 is the setting for this world premiere by David Wiener. American telecom executive Carter (Mather Zickel) is taken with Phnom Penh and its people, especially obliging guide Sopoan (Greg Watanabe), but his wife, Mara (Marin Hinkle), would rather be anywhere else. The tension between the two creates a comic interplay that highlights the incongruity of Carter's "mission" in Cambodia. This disjointedness is further amplified in their first meeting with "facilitator" Dr. Heng (Francois Chau), a surprisingly raw encounter that's beautifully crafted by director Pam MacKinnon and rendered by Chau. Once the confusion dissipates, Heng becomes instantly hospitable, yet his wife, Rom Chang (Kimiko Gelman), remains feisty and incisively outspoken. Her attitude reflects the effects of genocide, and in exploring them, the play becomes like a cave: The deeper you go, the darker it gets. The cast is stellar across the board: from Zickel's charisma and Hinkle's expressive body language, to Chau's ability to turn on a dime, Gelman's understated ferocity and Watanabe's embodiment of an utterly broken man. MacKinnon potently molds Wiener's cleverly subversive scenes into edgy drama that strikingly conveys the weight of history. Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Wstwd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 3 & 8 p.m., Sun., 2 & 7 p.m., thru July 3. (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.org.
Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: June 1. Continues through July 3, 2011


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