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BWW Review: Confusion, Mostly Unintended, Abounds in THE GOLDEN DRAGON


THE GOLDEN DRAGON/by Roland Schimmelpfennig/translated by David Tushingham/directed by Michael Michetti/The Theatre @ Boston Court/thru June 5, 2016

The Southern California premiere of playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig's THE GOLDEN DRAGON benefits from the sturdy, first-rate technical production values The Theatre @ Boston Court has earned their deserved reputation for. Sara Ryung Clement has cleanly designed a bare-staged set filled only with a two-level scaffolding, complemented by Elizabeth Harper's intriguing string LED/fluorescent tube lighting for a variety of landmark silhouettes on the scaffolding. Sound designer John Nobori curiously begins the show with the sounds of Japanese Taiko drums introducing the five Asian staff of a Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese food restaurant The Golden Dragon. Nobori continues with ambient restaurant background noise throughout the restaurant scenes. The combination of Harper's light and Nobori's sound cues with Annie Yee's staging and choreography punctuate each scene change. Michael Michetti directs his game and capable cast performing their multiple roles without any costume changes at a fast, even pace.

Kudos to THE GOLDEN DRAGON's color-blind, gender-blind, ageist-blind casting, as the five actors perform against physical type - men play women, women play men, young play old, non-Asians play Asians. But with all this color/gender/ageist-blind casting comes the pitfall of equal opportunity offending. Asian accents were exaggerated. The men playing women, at first glance, seemed to be portraying drag queen with extreme stereotypical traits. Schimmelpfennig has not written enough set up to preclude the confusion of the characters the five actors play; although the plot of the intertwining lives of the restaurant staffers and its neighbors seem secondary to the "blind casting."

THE GOLDEN DRAGON takes a while to acclimate to the idea that actress Susana Batres (perfectly annoying as the screaming tooth-ached plagued Boy) is portraying a male. When two characters get introduced as flight attendants, we see Joseph Kamal and Theo Perkins mincing around in effeminate drag queen caricatures. Justin H. Min waits on them in the most flirtatious, flamboyant manner. Turns out all of these three characters are not drag queens or gay as they appallingly appear, but actual women.

Most involving character (sans stereotypical acting mannerisms) and most deserving of a entire play of his own, would be Perkins with his character as an actual drag queen, instead of the scripted female.

Min has the unique opportunity to embody a mythical Cricket to Ann Colby Stocking's Ant. The lazy Cricket had to earn her keep from the Ant by being the Ant's slut he pimps out.

So confusing to pair up roles with actors who, at initial glance, don't look like their characters. Was that Schimmelpfennig's point?

Also, the frequent use of the actors speaking out actual stage directions ("Short pause." "The Cricket then says,...") takes the audience involvement right out of the story on stage time and time again.

For a complete evening out of DINNER & SHOW, dine at Avanti Café ( literally a few doors from Boston Court Performing Arts Center. Click on DINNER & SHOW to check out BWW's Q&A with Avanti Café's owner Bobby Ghofranian.

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