nytheatre.com review by Mark De Francis
June 15, 2007
Korean Badass is both Korean and Badass. This one-man show, part of the National Asian American Theatre Festival, is two hours of furious theatre powered solely by the dynamo that is Stevie Lee Saxon. One of the hardest things for an actor to do is handle a solo performance, but Saxon goes the distance and unveils a complex biography that is as poignant and moving as it is badass.
Saxon wastes no time getting to it. He enters like a prizefighter, warms up to his soundtrack, and launches into a high-paced monologue, which is a collage of tough-talking, hell-for-leather catch phrases with a little paraphrased Shakespeare for color. Saxon, it seems, dreams of becoming the Korean Steve McQueen. This stems from his inability to find a suitable Asian actor as a role model and his desire to be defined by his talent, not his ethnicity. In one of my favorite scenes, Saxon dispels many previous Asian performers as nothing but demeaning stereotypes. The piece has a lot to say about show business, personal branding, and the sacrifices artists make to follow their craft.
Saxon adds another color when he introduces his family history into the mix. Here we see him trying to fight a tradition that disapproves of his choice to be an actor, culminating in a powerful scene between him and his father.
Half the fun of a one-man show is watching an actor challenge himself. Saxon covers this piece with a diverse array of characters and tones and rarely lets his concentration lapse. Director Jeannie Barroga cannot go without mention for crafting a fine performance. Sadly, the ambitious technical aspects of the show, which involve video, lights, and sound, seemed off-pace with Saxon's performance. I chalk that up to opening night and I'm sure it will be worked out by the time you see it.
And you should see it. Get to Korean Badass so that Stevie Lee Saxon can be the next Steve McQueen and we can all enjoy his remake of Bullet.