nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
March 7, 2008
I love an evening of short plays. It's like a tray of confections at three in the afternoon: they go down easily and infuse a surge of energy that generally makes me feel good. Second Generation's olio of plays, collectively called Six, offers up a mix of humor, drama, and farce in a cohesive production of one-acts by a half dozen Asian American playwrights. The thought Second Generation put into this production is evident: in the loose theme of faulty relationships; in the simple yet clever backdrop; in the music between set changes; and in the monologue that pops up intermittently. In short, Six is easily digestible.
The best of the lot is Round and Round, an elegant drama by Julia Cho that weaves together simple fantasy and heartbreaking reality to tell a story of a couple unable to communicate. Jennifer Ikeda portrays Mary, a mournful wife ready to leave her husband, George, a master of many languages. Joel de la Fuente imbues George with a quiet aloofness. Insight into George's character comes in one emotional moment when he describes his profession as a linguist. "Life without Esperanto is unimaginable to me. When a language dies, a culture, a world dies." And, yet, when Mary says, "Say the right thing and I won't go," he cannot find the words. Mary's fantasy of what he could say is incorporated seamlessly by director Kate Whoriskey with marvelous lighting effects by Chris Brown.
The Trajectory of a Heart, Fractured, by Sung Rno, is a tale of love found and lost. Waiting to board a plane, Orville, a quiet 30-something, snaps a Polaroid of a poised lovely named Joanne. She snubs him. Snapping pictures of strange women is creepy. Could he be a stalker? She rethinks her situation and falls for him, albeit, ten minutes too late, with the rest of the play showing them meeting, pulling apart, miscommunicating, and lying to one another. Paul Juhn effectuates an inscrutable, yet appealing aura, while Jennifer Ikeda follows a smooth arc of a proud confident woman to one who has lost everything. Two other characters add immeasurably to the texture of the piece. Jessica Jade Andres delivers the perfect nightmare of a compulsive talker as Yumi, Orville's new girlfriend; and Ali Ahn, in a hilarious slow motion segment, gives the Flight Attendant's side of the story. Victor Maog directs with precision.
Ralph B. Peña's Tail, a monologue, appears in three different parts of the evening, serving as a thread that pulls the performance forward. Subtly directed by Graeme Gillis, the play features an attractive woman, Jodi Lin, who talks on her cell phone. It becomes evident early on that she is leaving a message—a long message—to a man she wants to connect with. Wearing a clingy kelly green dress and zebra high heels, Lin's character looks confident and alluring, but the words take on increased urgency in each episode. Lin's character, physically voluptuous and mentally steely, shows a contemporary woman's determination to have her man. What begins as amusing becomes pathetic as Lin, in a beautifully focused performance, strips her character of all dignity.
Touching on habitual friendship, the one from school where there is nothing left but the memory, is Patricia Jang's Ein Berliner. Here, Jake, still without direction as he approaches 40, attends a farewell party for his old friend, Chad, who, with his wealthy wife, leaves for Germany the next day. The two reminisce about Chad's peak athletic stardom compared to his empty life at present. The conversation degenerates when Chad begins to lose his affable demeanor as Jake tries to convince him to invest in a nightclub where his band could play nightly. Steve Sanpietro's Chad takes on the restlessness of a caged animal and ultimately turns mean, stripping away the little left of their friendship. Hanson Tse gives Jake a fine vulnerability. Playwright Jang has drawn two fine characters, but she has not finished editing. The two men verbally spar at least five minutes too long, repeating what has been reiterated way too many times. Ralph Peña's strong direction lends emotional depth, particularly in the opening scene where Chad is buried beneath a bed of furs.
Adding a little absurdity to the mix is Rehana Mirza's A Dose of Reality. An unhappy wife tries to purchase happiness in the guise of camera paraphernalia—a massive amount of it—that will enable the world to watch her and her husband as a reality program. When her husband discovers all the equipment, they argue—hurling epithets at each other. The FCC intervenes, fining them for every profanity and canceling the show after an hour. Jackie Chung and Jason Liebman as the couple and Matthew Park as the FCC agent do the best they can, but the script reaches too far without establishing credible characters and their motivations. Jon Kern directs.
Winding up the evening with a bit of farce is Michael Lew's Moustache Guys, an ensemble piece that incorporates most of the actors from the other plays. In it, a wife infiltrates the International Order of the Moustache Guys, an organization her husband recently joined and where he spends all his time. Ali Ahn and Paul Juhn play the duo, and the entire cast is fitted with glue above the lip and one kind of moustache or another to adhere to it. David Ruttura directs this loopy extravaganza, ensuring plenty of opportunity for laughs. It is an upbeat ending to a strong evening of plays, one that requires that logic be left at the lodge door. Tiffany Villarin is the one additional cast member.
The evening is further enhanced by its designers: Nick Francone designed the murky, random-sized windows that spread across the back wall, a nice reflection of the lack of clear communication between the characters in the plays; Christie Carroll designed simple, yet effective costumes; and Shane Rettig created sound and original music that made the simple set changes appear seamless. Nice work!