Sisters premieres on Gateway stage

John Ng plays the role of Captain Wong, a Chinese Nationalist Army officer   -
John Ng plays the role of Captain Wong, a Chinese Nationalist Army officer
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Captain Wong is a dashing 26-year-old officer in the Chinese Nationalist Army stationed at a small garrison town in 1936 China. But behind the crisp uniform is more of a poet—a man whose real battle is for Irena’s love.

Playing the romantic man whose expertise isn’t exactly in the art of wooing is John Ng, one of the stars in Gateway Theatre’s production of Sisters.

Tonight’s opening marks the world premiere of Simon Johnston’s new play, which draws inspiration from Anton Chekhov’s play Three Sisters. The story follows two Russian sisters who live in a once grand house. Their late father previously trained Nationalist Chinese troops and now they’re struggling to make ends meet while maintaining the illusion of privilege. The sisters long to return to Moscow, but their Chinese sister-in-law makes things difficult. And there’s the learned Captain Wong whose quest for love doesn’t exactly go as planned.

“I try to be as romantic as possible,” said Ng, in an interview Wednesday. “I’m a lover, not a fighter.”

Ng, a graduate of University of Ottawa’s theatre program, had familiarity with the script before accepting the role, having previously participated in a workshop of the play in Toronto.

“I think Simon (Johnston) has brought out more of the humour than the first draft that he wrote for the workshop. Originally there was more of a Chekhovian feel to it, but I think he still retained a lot of the ironies and subtle social commentary that he seems to enjoy putting into his works.”

Born in Hong Kong, Ng arrived in Canada at age nine with his family and settled in Ottawa. He had an early desire to study theatre, but, he said, was too afraid to take the plunge.

After getting buried in political science and history textbooks for two years, he transferred to theatre and never looked back. He’s now worked as an actor for 15 years and for the last five has concentrated on theatre in Canada’s largest city. New works by Canadian playwrights are particularly appealing to the actor.

“It’s a challenge to come up with an original interpretation of playwrights’ ideas, and to be able to offer a different personal take on something that hasn’t been done before,” he said. “I enjoy the process of workshopping plays and the collaborative work that takes place.”

In Sisters, conflicts drive the story along. Inside the house there’s Natasha, an ambitious Chinese sister-in-law intent on making an impact, and Marsha and Irena, the two Russian sisters at odds with her. Outside the house are growing political tensions between the Nationalists and Communists while all-out war with Japan looms.

Following the half-month run of Sisters, Ng will head back to Toronto, where the actor has back-to-back shows already lined up.


•by Simon Johnston

•On until Feb. 16 at Gateway Theatre MainStage

•Sarah Rodgers directs; Luisa Jojic, Sarah Louise Turner,

Josette Jorge and John Ng star

•Tickets, $30 to $48, at 604-270-1812  or gatewaytheatre.com

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