LYNN — Benny Sato Ambush is set to direct the New England premiere of “Cardboard Piano” at the New Repertory Theatre.
While the Lynn resident’s passion for theater did not begin until college, he has a 40-year career that has taken him across the country. “Cardboard Piano,” written by Hansol Jung, is a riveting new drama that follows an interracial love story between two young women, set against an escalating civil war in Uganda.
“This play was brought to my attention last year,” he said. “I read it and was floored by it, so I accepted their invitation to direct the play.”
As a friendly member of the artistic circle at the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, this will be Ambush’s third directed play there. What struck him most about the upcoming play, he said, is that it shows how using God and the Bible can be used to justify anything.
“Throughout human history, somebody’s God or religion has unleashed carnage and misery and suffering and pain on lots and lots of people,” said Ambush. “Often, it was supported by a fear and paranoia of difference.”
The play begins March 23 and runs until April 14. It is set in Uganda, a country that has a brutal, repressive policy against homosexuals, according to Ambush. His African-American and one quarter Japanese background allows him to connect to the deeper meaning of the play, he said.
“Cardboard Piano” examines the tumultuous story of two female teenagers, one a white American and the other a native of Uganda, said Ambush. At the same time, it also shows the “beautiful betrayal” of their young love and how lost they get in it.
“Love is love,” said Ambush. “Why can’t any human being love who they want to love?”
Ambush said the play is able to put a human face on the suffering and misery caused by a “religious justification to enforce bigotry.” He noted the hangings of people in Salem, because of accusations of them being witches, and said that is another example of the carnage that has taken place throughout human history.
Born in Brookline and raised in Worcester, Ambush came back to Massachusetts 10 years ago for a job teaching acting at Emerson. While he enjoyed his ambitious career across the country, from San Francisco to Virginia to Florida, he is happy to be back working in his home state living in a city just a few blocks away from the ocean.
He said he is looking forward to working with the amazing crew and cast behind “Cardboard Piano.”
“My job is just to help steer a team of collaborators while they truthfully tell the story in a compelling and honest way,” he said.