Made In Taiwan
nytheatre.com review by Nancy Kim
August 18, 2010
Proudly claiming her Chinese zodiac sign, Michelle Krusiec's mother identifies fully as a "Tiger Mother": powerful, fierce, and ready to enter any fight. Often calling her daughter by her pet name, "Spring Chicken," the image of a tiger handling a chicken seems to be the appropriate metaphor to describe the fraught relationship between mother and daughter, which dominates in Krusiec's solo show.
Made in Taiwan generally fits the mold of most other ethnic/bi-cultural coming-of-age stories. Examples abound from Krusiec's childhood to illustrate outsider status as a Taiwanese-born but American-raised girl: funky cooking smells, inappropriate school lunches, and outdated dating advice. Charting through her stories, Krusiec introduces several supporting players: her gruff military trained, acronym-loving father as well as Ayi Coco and Ayi Winnie, indelible Chinese aunties who, in one bravely funny scene, have no compunction about examining and remarking on Krusiec's body after her first sexual experience.
However, Krusiec's mother is the character that skulks, pounces, and charges throughout her story. She is introduced to us as a sort of an archetypal immigrant mother who is obsessed with cooking and feeding her family, speaks in a heavy accent prone to idiom-gaffes, and oblivious to her lack of tact concerning her daughter. However, her swearing is as natural as any English-speaking native and has a ferocious energy that hardly ever seems to waver.
And yet Krusiec is supremely loyal to her mother and follows along with her mother's demands and expectations. That is until an idea about her father's possible infidelity poisons her mother's imagination and starts to destroy the family. Unable to aid her mother this time, Krusiec seeks escape, which drives the rift between mother and daughter further. Ultimately, a bitter confrontation makes her realize something about herself and what she needs to do to escape from the sharp claws of her Tiger Mother.
Made in Taiwan having previously been workshopped and presented at other festivals and venues, Michelle Krusiec gives an appropriately relaxed but sharp performance here at FringeNYC. This piece is a wonderful showcase for her immense skills, especially in some of the dance and movement elements (drummer Dominique Joseph provides some nice offstage support). Along with her director Andy Belser, Krusiec reminds us that no matter how many times you think you may know the story, a performer who lays it all out on the stage makes the story sound new and specific to your ears.