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Asian For Dummies

Vivian Bang Jenn Brown Teddy Chen Kim Chueh Ewan Chung Charles Kim  Nancy Lee Diana Toshiko Mike Wilson Kristina Wong

With a title like that, you wonder what in the world you’re getting yourself into as you climb the precipitous stairs to the Flight Theatre in the Complex at Santa Monica Boulevard’s famed Theatre Row.

It isn’t often that the name of a play alone can provoke laughter sight unseen.  We remember covering other plays where the name brought giggles long before anyone stepped onto the boards.   You may have seen them;  Jewtopia, Honkies with Attitude – Orgasms – yada yada yada.

Cleverly mimicking the famous “Dummy” book series, the program has the familiar look with the blackboard and logo, so that you think you might learn something.  They even carry the theme by presenting each sketch as a Lesson, so that presumably by the time you complete Lesson 10 you are an expert on Asian (or a total Dummy).  

OPM Company (why does this sound a little like opium???) has brought a group of talented and funny people together to administer these lessons, which range from the sidesplitting, roll–in-the-aisle funny to OK funny to “this is funny?"

In all fairness, the audience was hooting and hollering, and considering that most of them seemed to be quite young, it’s evident that the group has found it’s niche group and is targeting them dead-on.  But those over 21 may not always find humor in the sketches.

We love the rapper girl host, Missy Elliott as she brings together a goofy Kim Jong Il and not too bright rapping George Bush for a rap show down competition that ends with idol rapper 50 Yen.  This was a sharp, well timed piece that had good satirical material and clever rapping. 

The Lost Clan of McChung has great lines supporting and absurd premise about the last three clan members who want to guard their territory by building a great wall around it.  Not exactly the Great Wall, but great fun!

The Seoul Garden takes a shot at several stereotypes when mixed couple, Tae, a Korean American and Kim, an African American, go to a Korean restaurant and the waitress who desperately wants to be cool pulls out every Black typecast possible bringing fried chicken, watermelon and changing the background music to hip-hop.  What happened to the black-eyed peas and the chittlins?

Our favorite was when two ninjas meet in a death clash, only to learn they are lifelong friends.  There is a certain poignancy here as they talk about their childhood, but realize that each has a job to do – and complete their task to the unexpected comic-tragic end.

The night we visited was a tough one for the gang.  One of their members had left the play to do a film, and they had to scramble to fill in the slot with other cast members.   Somebody needs to talk to this guy about priorities.  How can doing a film (for at least union scale) take precedence over appearing (probably for free) in a play with an audience of around twenty in a hot, small upstairs makeshift theatre?  Some people!  Then the sound was bad sometimes, as they missed several sound cues several times. 

Some of the skits were over grossed – like the baby’s arm being ripped off by a feuding couple or the playground where everyone gets killed.  One disappointment was the Asian American Porn Star Awards.  That has so much potential, but instead we are grossed out by a slimy faced actress (presumably just finishing a job - - ) and the Monterey Park justice was totally DOA.

We hoped to see more edgy scenes where the popular conceptions are shot down (or played up).  Where are all the bad drivers?  Where are all the honor roll students?  Where are the white boyfriends putting soy sauce in their rice?

All that aside, this group has the right idea and they are definitely on the right track.  The night whizzes by as they provide some witty and intelligent setups with good timing and clever lines. 

The guys are cool – the girls are hot and the material is sharp for the most part.  We look forward to future productions from the group, who will undoubtedly grow and become a popular company in a city that’s filled with equally talented and sharp people – all looking for the same thing.  Let’s just hope that no more of them get movie jobs, or else there won’t be any company left.  (wait – isn’t that what this is all about?)

One thing for sure – these Asians are no Dummies!

Comments? Write to us at: Letters@ReviewPlays.com

The Cast: Vivian Bang, Jen Brown, Kim Chueh, Leroy Chin Ewan Chung. Teddy Chen Culver, Beau Danner, Donna Davenport, Charles Kim, Nancy Lee, Eddie Mui, Randall Park, Wanson Tsai, Diana Toshiko, Mike Wilson, Kristina Wong, Fred Wu.  Aaron Takahashi would have been in the cast, but he was off doing a film.