THE SEMEN TREE
nytheatre.com review by Stan Richardson
The most winning aspect of The Semen Tree is writer/performer
Angel Abcede’s overwhelming desire to be there. Clearly he could benefit
from seeing more theatre (and performance art), as well as from a
dramaturgical collaborator, but Abcede saves his loosely-focused and
often jejune theatre-piece from being embarrassing because he has the
exuberance of a child finally having his say.
August 15, 2003
His "say" begins with an arch rundown of his life’s accomplishments—most proudly, his column for Gay Chicago Magazine in which he gave the Asian male perspective on matters of gay culture. The quipped excerpts on the dubious myth of Asian submissiveness or the size of the Asian penis (settled? at the end in the well-worn literalization of the phrase "emotionally naked") are less pioneering than he thinks, but they still make engaging fodder. The longing which (intermittently) organizes his autobiographical play is the desire for there to be no difference between himself and the paradigmatic Young White Male whom he finds (and is conditioned to find) so attractive; when he is closest to this sense of loss is when the play is most engaging and occasionally insightful.
The songs and dances are unremarkable, and the latter half lacks a narrative throughline (and I’m under the impression one is intended.) I’m also under the impression that with his title, Abcede is referencing Pamela Gien’s masterful The Syringa Tree, but the one small underdeveloped anecdote that seems to justify this homage, does not. But what is important and memorable about The Semen Tree is the pain (past and very present) of being an outsider in one’s own sexuality, and hopefully Abcede will continue to make theatre using that in a more direct and focused way.