STICKY RICE QUEEN
nytheatre.com review by John Jordan
Sticky Rice Queen is an astounding, thought-provoking,
in-your-face, multimedia, one-man show that enlightens as well
August 15, 2002
Now, I tend not to think of one-man shows at all…let alone as a work of art (i.e., a representation, a portrayal, a shaping). However, Steven Khan (writer/performer), Nicole Shiro (producer/director) and the Present Company (producer) have obviously worked very hard to represent, portray and shape Sticky Rice Queen into one of the most riveting 70 minutes of art I have ever seen.
Khan portrays eight very distinct characters and their stories…with the common theme of gay Asians and their identity crises. Mostly live, some previously filmed. One very clever and touching story combines both, with Khan portraying a closeted Japanese businessman crooning at a karaoke bar, while a film montage reveals his love for a co-worker, thus explaining why he is so down. Other characters include: Lee the Asian Potato Queen; a "typical, bitchy," Chelsea Gym Queen (non-Asian, and as all the other characters, excellently portrayed by Khan); a Bangkok Boy forced into prostitution; an Asian Homo Thug; and, the overall best (if it is possible to pick a "best" story), Cory, a Southern Rice Queen, whose tale of young love is simply beautiful. (Not sure what a rice queen, potato queen or sticky queen is? Don’t fret, the Dragon Lady will explain all the necessary lingo in the first scene.)
The music selections are exquisite, as is the overall direction. However, tighter transitions would be beneficial, and the one-man stage crew, positioned in the audience, would probably work better if somehow tied into the show.
The production did get off to a shaky start…there were a few technical problems with the microphone wire and Khan seemed a bit apprehensive at the outset. But once he set the cord straight, with an appropriately-added improv of disgust ("stage hands"), he relaxed and found his place. (Note: I was at the very first performance and undoubtedly these few flaws will disappear.)
I found myself getting pulled into each character, each story. Sticky Rice Queen has invited me to re-evaluate a few things in my own life, and for that I am grateful.