Asian Acting: LA Times Review

Los Angeles Times: January 14, 2005

Eight plays from one playwright

An eclectic octet of Asiatic one-acts at Rude Guerrilla Theater Company, and more.

Hybrid invention decorates "Asian Acting," an eclectic octet of Asiatic one-acts by Rude Guerrilla Theater Company stalwart Aurelio Locsin.

Sara Guerrero stages the opener, "Legend of the First Banana," a free-trade fable of Filipino/Chinese forbidden love, with pornographic abandon. Jenny Lee, Marc Macalintal and Stephen Oyoung make selfless puppet principals; Peter Balgoyen and Yuki Matsuzaki are shameless monkey narrators.

"Midnight Maneuver" is a restrained monologue confronting homophobia. Naoko Okamoto's immigrant mother is convincing under Jody J. Reeves' direction. A dance scenario, "How China Defused the Cuban Missile Crisis," thrives on choreographer Erika Tai's kicky moves.

Old-school naturalism graces "Mrs. M.'s Tea," a WWII-era saga of a young GI (Keith Bennett, never better), his Japanese godmother (the wonderful Trina Mendiola) and internment. Director Sharyn Case sustains the pull of a superior "Hallmark Hall of Fame" entry.

"American Express," a commercial for Thai prostitution, is a throwaway, despite Scott Barber's staging, David Cramer's tourist and Jon Apostol's MC. "Tongue Lashing," a Thomas Harris-flavored chiller, has unsettling force. Macalintal portrays a blood-curdling psychotic, Bennett is heart-rending as his prey, and only director Reeves' awkward exit maneuver dulls the horrific thrust.

In "Xian," Steven Parker's stylish direction masks the spy-ware embedded in this allegory of pregnant ninjas Tai, Lee and Jalin Hsu. "Marriage Monkey," based on a landmark California court decision, needs expansion, though director Tai and actors Apostol, Cramer and Wendy Braun do yeoman work.

The erratic aspects, a liability of multiple directors and omnibus structure, are fleeting. Tech is respectable, notably the costumes and Dawn Hess' lighting. But it's all about Locsin's writing, which is original, sometimes inspired and superbly played.

"Asian Acting: An Evening of One-Act Plays," Rude Guerrilla Theater Company, 200 N. Broadway, Artist Village, Santa Ana. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays, 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20 only. Ends Jan. 22. Mature audiences. $15 (714) 547-4688. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.