Based on the true story of Ming Kuang Chen, an illegal Chinese immigrant who was stuck in an elevator in the Bronx for nearly 81 hours in 2005, Stuck Elevator seems to pose an obvious staging problem: How do you get a show out of a 4-by-6-foot space? In fact, American Conservatory Theater's world premiere musical, with opera- and hip-hop-infused music by Byron Au Yong and a libretto by Aaron Jafferis, is as expansive as imagination and memory. Guang (Julius Ahn), a deliveryman for a Chinese restaurant, can't simply call for help; that would risk exposing his immigration status and jeopardizing his family's chance to one day join him from Changle, in Fujian Province.
His imprisonment stretches on, becoming a symbol: He is not just stuck in a tiny space but in a tiny life, subject to the will of the loan shark who footed the bill to get him to America, his boss at the restaurant, and the immigration police. His dreams, fears, and memories, by contrast, will not be contained. Projections by Kate Freer help transform Daniel Ostling's set into other worlds, and ensemble members Marie-France Arcilla, Joseph Anthony Foronda, Raymond J. Lee, and Joel Perez, under the direction of Chay Yew, each play multiple roles, making what society reduces to a tiny life into a full, rich one.
Stuck Elevator starts at 8 p.m. and continues through April 28 at American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary St., S.F. Admission is $20 and up; call 749-2228 or visit act-sf.org.