The Caste & The Furious: Tokyo Drift
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
June 15, 2007
Good comedy comes from a unique perspective. Some of the best comedians are those that have had to struggle through life and are just angry enough about that to turn it into comedy. Stir Friday Night has this sort of unique perspective, all of them growing up Asian American, and they have converted their combined experiences into some really funny material.
Their show The Caste and the Furious is set up in a sketch comedy format but several of the scenes go beyond that. There are, for example, several musical numbers and a couple of bits that are a little more serious; most of it is very thought-provoking. Stir Friday Night unabashedly and directly tackles racial stereotypes of Asians and they do it with flair and irony. One of my favorites in this category was a rapping, gangsta character who is pleading for Asian representation in American Pop Culture. The character feels forced to act like an African American just to get noticed. There are also songs that are as poignant as they are funny, such as "Yellow Fever" (akin to jungle fever) and the suave and loungy "I Want A White Girl" number.
SFN uses irony as a mighty sword. There is a brilliant scene about a newlywed couple, one the personification of North Korea and the other South, who are finding it difficult to work out there differences on their wedding night. The characterizations by the actors in the scene are hilarious and dead-on. The irony of these two lovers who want to be together but due to their deep-seated fear and misunderstanding of each other is felt like a slashing sword.
SFN also uses physical comedy and a few puppet props. They open with a hilarious bit about competitive in-line skaters whose legs are sort of Bunraku-operated puppet legs, giving them the freedom to do the craziest, twisty things as the race and jump and fly. They go back and forth from slow motion to normal speed giving the action a sort of cartoon-like look and appeal. There's also a fantastic physical comedy bit about fighting over the last donut. SNF is overall very funny and I liked the writing in general though there are several jokes that I felt could have been pushed even further. I think they may explore some of their ending jokes with a little improv. Still, the cast is polished and always on point.
The cast (or caste if you will)—Carl Anderson, Melissa Canciller, Neal Dandade, Sun Hong, Sayjal Joshi, Jen Liu, and Steven Yeun—make this show the best it can be. They create distinct, funny characters and many of them have lovely singing voices. They make bold statements regarding racial stereotypes and they do it in a very funny and enormously entertaining show. They hail from Chicago so catch them here in NYC while you can.