BWW Reviews: Theatre Esprit Asia's M. BUTTERFLY Captivates with Promise and Talent!
Theatre Esprit Asia proudly presents the regional debut of David Henry Hwang's staged interpretation of the iconic M. BUTTERFLY playing now through September 28th. Inspired by true events, M. BUTTERFLY fictionalizes the story of a bored French diplomat who falls for a beautiful and charming Chinese opera singer, who personifies his fantasy of the Asian beauty. The twist? With a most shocking reveal, the love of his life was never what she seemed. How could this intimate relationship have lasted for over 20 years without the diplomat ever knowing the truth? Hwang details a compelling drama examining themes of sexual identity and racial stereotyping, Western imperialism, the role illusion plays in perceptions, and the ability for one person to truly know another.
"Perhaps I am slightly afraid of scandal!"
The talents of this diverse theater company shone brilliantly thru with their intriguing interpretation of M. BUTTERFLY. I was also encouraged and excited by the sold out opening audience! It was so good to see such wonderful support of this talented troupe. The original "Crying Game" (as I like to call it) is a daunting task for any company and this ensemble was well balanced and superb in meeting this roller coaster of intrigue, lies, deceit and betrayal.My only major critic would be the golden opportunity missed with the transformation of Song Liling into his masculine state. Even with stopping the show, they rushed a beautiful and tragic transformation and made it look like and everyday routine. Personally I would have had the two servants peel off his female costume during the trial as he was exposing himself and his deception leaving him in nothing but his undergarments till almost the end of the scene. All in all this show kept me fascinated from beginning beginning to end!
Kevin Hart was outstanding as the flawed protagonist, Rene Gallimard and took us on his intriguing and tragic journey. His reflectiveness and pain kept the audiences attention and I adored his accent. The only thing I would change would be his conversion into Butterfly. While he was putting on his makeup in a more professional manner, I think he should have taken the sponge and slashed at his face for more dramatic demise and deeper impact resulting in grotesque mask of his pain. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Charlee Chiv's portrayal of the challenging role of Song Liling. Honestly, I believe that this is one of the most challenging roles an actor can play onstage and Charlee was magnetic, witty and sparkled. While I feel he could have done a little more research as to how to naturally move as a woman and give a bit more seduction and allure (keep in mind Song convinces Rene for 20 years that he is a woman), I liked the complexities and conflicts he brought to the role giving his performance such depth. His emerging strength blossomed and captivated the audience as he changed into into a man, but the ending left me wanting more. I feel he needed to ask his character that after 20 years together, does Song fall in love with Rene (classic Stockholm Syndrome)? Stuart Sanks provided the much needed comic relief as Rene's womanizing best friend, Marc. Erica Fox had a smaller part but stood out with her playful, seductive and witty portrayal of Renee. No one else could play Comrade Chin with the perfect balance of strength and humor than the talented Arlene Rapal fabulously demonstrated Martha Harmon Pardee rounded out the pain with Helga and her last scene and confrontation with her husband Rene was tantalizing to watch.
Even even though I feel that there were a couple impactful opportunities missed, the flow was there, the blocking was good the casting was spot; and I commend director Rick Shiomi for a job very well done. Christopher Waller certainly had his work cut out for him as the set, lighting and sound designer but he made wise choices. The set was accented with simple touches that played well into the many, many global locations and kept the focus on this talented ensemble. The feature was the reveal curtain lifting up to the ceiling to give Song Liling a proper, dramatic entrance. Costume designer Evgeni Mlodik gave elegance to song with her gorgeous gowns and wig & makeup design by Lindsey Ladnir helped to make her transformation complete. Unfortunately I do have to call Evgeni out for not putting Charlee in silk boxers and having him parade around in that bad and ratty gray underwear that distracted me and took away from that intense scene.
I applaud this wonderful company on a great start to their second season and I look forward to what I was to come! Theatre Esprit Asia's riveting presentation of M. BUTTERFLY is captivating audiences now through September 28th. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, and Sundays at 2:30 pm. in the Fox Studio Theatre located at 9900 East Colfax Avenue in Aurora, CO. Tickets can be obtained by calling Theatre Esprit Asia box office at 720.282.3447 or visiting their website www.theatre-esprit-asia.org.
PLEASE NOTE: M. BUTTERFLY contains brief nudity
PICTURED ABOVE: Charlee Chiv as Song Lingling