In the introduction to F.O.B., and Other Plays, Hwang describes a two-year hiatus from writing that proceeded Rich Relations and comments that the play reestablished his commitment to writing. It is about the possibility of resurrection, he asserts, and writing it resurrected his love for work. Elsewhere, he calls the play autobiographical, even though Rich Relations is the first play that Hwang wrote that has no specifically Asian roles. The characters are white because Hwang is testing whether literary segregation implies cultural limitation. As an American author, he believes that he should be able to make his characters whatever ethnicity he chooses.
The play opens with Hinson, a high-tech entrepreneur, showing his son Keith one of his new inventions, a phone hooked up to a television. Hinson calls it “a modern convenience,” but Keith calls the device “ridiculous.” Hinson uses the invention to telephone his brother-in-law, Fred, who says the connection makes Hinson sound as though he is at the bottom of a sewer. That kind of multiple and contradictory perspective, played for humor, abounds in this play of misunderstood dialogue and misinterpreted gesture. California materialism and Christian mysticism are constant themes that try to unify characters with some common ground, but both are ineffectual.
The characters talk at each other rather than to each other, play for humor the fact of their being...
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