Hot Black/Asian Action
nytheatre.com review by Becky London
August 12, 2006
Hot Black/Asian Action is a trio of plays by Quinn D. Eli, all concerning sexual and racial stereotypes. The three pieces are joined together by monologues from a Mrs. Dollinger (Tara Copeland), a provincial, uncomprehendingly racist, self-styled star and head of an extremely local theater. The conceit of the evening is that her theater is presenting these pieces, although she herself has not read a single one of them.
Hot Black/Asian Action is nowhere near as provocative as its title promises. The three pieces are unfortunately tame, slow, and repetitious. All three feature almost exactly the same set-up, with playwrights or play interpreters being encouraged to move beyond racial and sexual stereotypes by their characters/actors/inspirations.
In the first piece, "Tiny Daggers," a director wishes to reinterpret Macbeth and insistently presses stereotypes on an increasingly incredulous group of actresses. "Tiny Daggers" features a truly multiracial cast, with racial and sexual stereotypes of African American women, Asian women, and Caucasians of both sexes laid out with refreshing directness.
In the second piece, "Little Lies," an Asian playwright using an Asian actress and a Caucasian actor to work through his material confronts his own internalized sexual and racial stereotypes of Asians and Caucasians. The piece is nicely detailed, but, like "Tiny Daggers," tells the story of a creator stuck in stereotypes, liberated by an actress.
The final piece, "Small Portions," features a playwright at an unidentified Asian restaurant. The staff morphs identities, refers to the menu as the "cast list," and otherwise moves the play into a non-realistic mode. But once again, their job is to urge the playwright to speak in his real voice; to move beyond stereotypes.
While the substance of all three of these pieces is worthwhile, I found the repetitive structure and theatrical settings limiting and hard to get past. Mrs. Dollinger (Copeland) comments negatively after each piece, supposedly to display her narrow-mindedness. However, I wonder about the wisdom of this ironic device, as I found myself agreeing with her frequently.
The cast, all of whom except Copeland play multiple roles, is uniformly good. Copeland is appropriately flamboyant and suggestive; her performance is one-note, but it's a very enjoyable note. Her monologues are quite lengthy, however, and might do with some judicious cutting by author Eli. The rest of the company enlivens the material with assurance. Most notable is Vanessa Kai; she has wonderful presence and power, and her vocal variety is delightful.