The Chinese afterlife has gone all to hell. The Buddhist goddess of mercy, Guan Yin, waits under a sacred mountain to help the dead by taking away the pain and memory of their last life to prepare them for the next. Or at least that's how it's supposed to work. In actuality she spends eternity cussing out callers on her help line, feeding off the pain of the dead like a drug fiend, and playing videogames, using Dance Dance Revolution to steer pixelated souls where they need to go.
At least that's how it works in 410[GONE], the new play by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig now being given its world premiere by San Francisco's Crowded Fire Theater. Or rather, that's how the goddess and her constant companion the Monkey King are used to things working. But their complacency is interrupted by the arrival of a non-digitized mortal soul stumbling into their sanctuary.
Christopher James Cortez is infectiously appealing as a teenager who's under the impression that he's been making his way through a videogame and is totally crushing it. He's not far off. But he doesn't know who he is or how he got here, and the more that's revealed to him of who he actually is, or was, the more his personality changes.
Unbeknownst to him, he's being helped out by his sister, a geeky honors student who keeps meticulously reenacting her brother's last day on earth to try to understand what happened to him. "I will take this mystery and make it my bitch," she says cheerily. Cindy Im gives the girl an endearing optimism that's clearly frayed around the edges by grief as she narrates letters her brother will never receive, and the vulnerability in her portrayal deepens as her relationship with her brother in life becomes clearer.