Merrimack Rep’s “Knyum” Goes Looking for the Self


Review by James Wilkinson


Knyum is written and performed by Vichet Chum. Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre. Directed by KJ Sanchez. Scenic Design by Dan Conway. Costume Design by Szu-Feng Chen. Lighting Design by Brian J. Lilienthal. Sound Design by David Remedios. Projection Design by Jon Haas. Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 50 East Merrimack Street, Lowell, through February 4


I find myself in an odd position, advocating for listening as a political action. Surely, some may argue, you’re not doing anything if you’re listening. However, as the #MeToo movement has proven in the last few months, there can be much to be gained by simply stopping what you are doing and letting someone else have their say. There’s a moment in Vichet Chum’s new play, Knyum, that keeps replaying in my mind now, two days after I have seen the show. The play’s lead (and only) character, Guy, describes a day when his Cambodian mother visits a supermarket in their Texas hometown. Both of his parents immigrated to the States following the Cambodian genocide. English is not his mother’s first language and not noticing the sign, checks out in the twelve items or fewer line with more than twelve items (oh the horror…). In the parking lot, another customer attempts to make a scene and shame Guy’s mother for such a heinous crime and at that point Guy realizes, “my mother did not survive a genocide to put up with this bullshit.”


But I am getting ahead of myself….

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