nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
August 19, 2010
Alan, a struggling writer, has hit rock bottom. He has big time writer's block and no money. His apartment has gone untended and now he's living in squalor. The unpaid bills are mounting and his creditors are circling like vultures. He's still reeling from a year-old breakup. And, he can't get Charlie, his overbearing sister, to stop inviting herself over. Can't a guy self-destruct in peace? Too bad things aren't that easy. Enter Cookie, a young Asian woman willing to pay Alan to marry her so she can become a U.S. citizen. The catch? She's mean, cautious, ruthlessly pragmatic, and not really interested in being friends. Alan, meet your new roommate.
And so begins the intriguing premise of Cookie, Chad Beckim's humorous new play about gender roles, racial stereotypes, and how far people will go to (a) make a buck, or (b) make their dreams come true. Beckim, an economically precise writer, knows how to make a statement without writing it in all caps. By juxtaposing bullying Charlie and aggressive Cookie against Alan's vulnerable sensitivity, Beckim makes a sly commentary on modern gender role reversal (i.e., castrating, no-nonsense women versus soft man-boys). He also uses the title character to blow the myth of the submissive Asian female out of the water. Alan's willingness to go along with Cookie's plan illustrates the lengths to which he'll go to preserve the monastic way of life that almost wrecked him in the first place. And when we finally learn Cookie's true motives for doing all this, Beckim reveals how strong one's heart can be in the face of insurmountable adversity.
Despite his well-honed craft, Beckim may be too economical. He introduces an explosive new plot point at the play's climax that could easily justify a second act (the play runs a lean intermission-less 60 minutes right now). Still, Cookie is full of surprises, and the production is well-executed by both Beckim (who also directs the play) and his wonderfully talented cast. Vincent Madero is perfect as Alan, clueless that his single-minded commitment to writing has taken a toll on everyone around him (including himself). Cynthia Silver makes a strong impression as Charlie, whose smothering love for her cats is indicative of her approach to life. Ryan Christopher Kim does a nice job fleshing out the role of Alan's best friend, Franklin, a part that could easily become nothing more than a sounding board for the other characters. And Yindy Vatanavan is excellent as Cookie: she embraces the character's abrasive, no-nonsense attitude head-on to hilarious effect.