The starring role in Porcelain, a play about a teenager’s fatal attraction for a trick he meets in a public restroom, introduces Houston theater audiences to openly gay Vietnamese immigrant Bobo Hoang, who lives in Sugar Land.
“I discovered it when I was looking for plays I could audition for that are about homosexuals, specifically with an Asian voice,” he says. “This play encourages me to be more confident and accept myself being different. I hope that audiences will see it and realize that you don’t have to go out looking for approval.”
The August 3–26 production of Chay Yew’s Porcelain will be performed by Caduceus Theater Arts Company at the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH).
Hoang plays John Lee, a “gaysian” in London who isn’t popular at the bars where other men “have a good time, laughing and drinking with their perfect smiles and perfect hair.” He has more luck hooking up with strangers in public toilets, where ”a mouth is a mouth.”
When he has sex with a 26-year-old, William Hope, who invites him out for a drink at a nearby pub and then to his flat, Lee thinks they’ve made a love connection.
“You know, we were happy, Will and I. Really happy together,” he says.
However, when we meet the characters, their hookup has already ended in homicide. On a bare stage, except for five chairs facing the audience, Lee is dressed in white, sitting in the middle and folding red origami paper cranes. Four Caucasian men, “dressed uniformly in black,” enter from the wings and spin the tale of how Lee returned to the lavatory and shot William Hope six times after catching him cruising for other men.
Among the four Caucasian actors is Michael J. Heard, a local doctor who last year founded Caduceus Theater Arts Company as a nonprofit group dedicated to supporting dramatic artists through professional productions, arts education, and community outreach.
Heard, who isn’t gay, reprises his role as Voice 4 from a 2007 production of Porcelain, which Ed Muth directed at Houston Community College’s Theatre One. “A lot of people were very affected by how intense it was. Some of my friends said it gave them nightmares,” Heard says. “It is a very dark drama. Some people may walk out.”
Heard, along with actors Dain A. Geist (Voice 1), Tommy Stuart (Voice 2), and Alan Brincks (Voice 3) create all of the show’s sound effects, including Big Ben striking four o’clock, cars honking, and an underground train screeching to a halt. They also portray the clamor of a city consumed by news reports of the lavatory killing.
“Violence and evil are never going to die,” Heard says, “but we always want to try to understand why violence happens.”
Hoang, who is 21, was born in Ho Chi Minh City, which many Americans call Saigon. He graduated from an international high school in Vietnam before moving with his family to Sugar Land in 2014. “We wanted to make a new life,” he says.
“I didn’t have an official ‘coming out,’” he adds, explaining that his parents have accepted him as gay “openly and comfortably” since he was in ninth grade. He even had a boyfriend, although they didn’t advertise their relationship at school because “the rules were kind of strict.”
In May, Hoang graduated from Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts, with a bachelor of arts degree and a
concentration in musical theater. Now that he’s moved back to Texas, he’s curious to find out how LGBTQ life in Houston compares to the liberal environment he enjoyed while attending college in New England.
Heard specializes in reproductive medicine, endocrinology, and acute care inside an emergency room. “I have a passion for acting and producing that dates back several years,” he says. “Besides being a doctor, it’s the best medicine for my soul.”
Porcelain is directed by Bonnie Hewett, with Conner Borne assisting. The stage manager is Ashley Graves. Mike Thompson is the lighting director, with Ken Thompson as sound director. In addition to Voice 1, Geist plays the prison psychiatrist who probes Lee’s motive for the crime.
What: Porcelain, by Chay Yew
Where: MATCH, 3400 Main Street
When: August 2–26
This article appears in the August 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.