When I read the program notes and saw that the five cast members were playing multiple characters and were clearly not sticking to their own sex/race/age, I did think to myself "oh god, I'm not going to get it, it's going to be too slick, confusing and ultimately inaccessible for someone like me..."
How wrong I was.
I loved this play so much that I don't even want to discuss the storyline for fear of ruining your own experience. Because you simply must see it. You must. Now.
The five actors are all equally talented and I couldn't say one dominated more than another. They molded together so well, shifting between characters and their interactions with one another seamlessly.
Rodney Afif and Roger Oakley's flight stewardesses are funny but strangely touching, showing me that comedy is often about the subtlety of ones character rather than their obvious flaws, features or strengths. There is a 5 second scene where the two of them, joined by the waitress, all smile at each other. These 5 seconds are worth the cost of your ticket alone.
There is also an intriguing story line between The Ant (Jan Friedl) and The Cricket (Ash Flanders) which was thoroughly mesmerising. Friedl and Flanders are extraordinary in these tense, dramatic scenes - particularly as they often follow quick transitions from more comedic story lines - and the way this story morphs into something darker and quite terrifying was a real highlight.
Dana Miltins plays the man at the centre of the story, "Asian Man with a Toothache", but her portrayal of "The Man with the Striped Shirt" was her most gripping because it seemed steeped in such realism. What this man ends up doing towards the end of the play is disturbing and I almost forget he was played by a woman at the end. That has to be the biggest complement for an actor if there ever was one.
I went through the whole gamut of emotions in this play from joy and surprise to disgust and sadness. These emotions were more than just fleeting feelings because I was connected to these stories. I thought what it would be like to be in that kitchen, or as the sex traffic worker, or the pregnant woman who doesn't want her baby.
I came out of the play almost guilty about the charmed existence I - we - live and take for granted more often than not.
There are several other things about this play that contribute to its success.
The first is the way the writer, Roland Schimmelpfennig, has been able to seamlessly weave these unconnected stories around the restaurant of The Golden Dragon, weaving and binding them up in one another until the final story.
The second is the way these actors deliberately (the playwright apparently states this in his play) play against type. Men play women, women play men, non-Asian play Asian. And I really thought I would struggle to connect to the play because of it. But I state again: how wrong I was.
Good acting isn't always based on complete physical realism it seems and I am proud to say The Golden Dragon taught me this. These actors asked me to look past the physical limitations, to abandon what I thought was "right" and to just go along with them.
That requires quite a sense of trust on the part of the audience member; and on the part of me.
But nothing in life worth having comes without some risk or a requirement that you relinquish some sense of complete control. The Golden Dragon requires you to do this.
If you can, you will receive your just deserts.
Review appeared at: http://theatrevirgin.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/review-golden-dragon.html
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