“Nice Nails,” a play by MFA playwriting student Aaron Ricciardi, will premiere Friday at the Wells-Metz Theatre. This is Ricciardi's first major project as a graduate student at IU.
The story follows a family of Korean immigrants who own a nail salon in Long Island, New York, and must confront societal and personal issues while running their business. The play was inspired by Ricciardi’s time spent in nail salons with his mother growing up, as well as the 2015 New York Times article investigating the poor working conditions of these businesses.
Ricciardi began working on the play in August 2016 and wrote six drafts over a year and a half.
While the play is quite political, he said he also wanted it to be funny, calling it deceptively deep.
Ricciardi said the play is about change — both resisting and accepting it. This is reflected in the characters, he said.
“The way they get through their lives, the way they make their way in the world and in America, has a lot to do with their ability to change,” he said.
Senior Longfei Zhao, plays Maurice, a father and owner of the nail salon. Zhao said the family came to America hopeful of what they’d find, but they realized it wasn’t all they thought it would be.
Both Zhao and senior Irene Yang, who plays Maurice’s wife, Ariel, said the most challenging part of the play was learning the roles of a father and mother. In the play, Ariel tries to do her best to support her daughter, but there is a disconnect.
“I can see the mother on stage who really wants to do good things to her daughter, but her daughter is in another world,” Yang said.
At 21 years old, Zhao said he learned how to become a father for this role by observing male figures in his life, such as his own father. He also tried to tap into the character himself, picking up gestures and mannerisms that fit the character.
Zhao said this play is different from ones he’s done in the past. Many of his roles have been Chinese characters, or classical plays like Shakespeare.
“It’s very challenging, but I love this show,” he said. “Sometimes I can feel his frustration, his sadness, his excitement.”
Compared to other works he’s done in the past, Ricciardi said this play has been difficult to write, and has forced him to confront his writing fears. He said for this play, he had a mind for the audience.
Ricciardi said he hopes the play will make the audience both laugh and think. A big part of the play is about what it means to be in the working class.
He said he hopes the play will cause audiences to think about the relationship they have with those in service jobs and what the working class looks like today, whether it be those in nail salons or those we don’t see.
He said Americans lack the ability to have a relationship with one another.
“We all have to live together," he said. "We all have to figure out how to do that.”
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