Asian Acting: OC Weekly Unedited Review

Joel Beer's Unedited Review for the OC Weekly

Apparently, it takes a really big series of waves for Americans to give much of a shit about Asia. For the most part, we’ve treated the continent, and its people, with a level of cruelty and disdain matched only by the horror we’ve unleashed upon mud racers living in our own country.

Bombing Vietnam into the Stone Age. Declaring war on Spain in large part to gain access to the Philippines, nobly freeing its people from European rule—and helping to kill an estimated 600,000 of them in the process. Dropping a nuclear bomb on Japan.


The eight plays that comprise local playwright Aurelio Locsin’s surprisingly engaging (surprising because it’s funny, well-written, thought-provoking and never predictable) Asian Acting aren’t overwhelmingly concerned with politics or racism. But those concerns are seldom too far away. Like the American soldier who has to deal with sending his surrogate mother to an internment camp during World War II. Or a young Filipino musician who falls in love with an English immigrant only to find that, in the great state of California in 1933, it’s illegal for any Caucasian to marry someone of the Mongol race.

The refreshing thing in this series of short plays isn’t what they’re about as much as how they’re delivered. There are moments of poignancy and solemnity but, for the most part, the plays are so different in context and tone that the ride never gets boring or tired. Following one short sketch about a credit card company touting the necessity of having its card if you’re thinking about nailing a prepubescent Thai girl, is a searingly intense play about a sadistic Filipino-American whose pretended to be gay just to bring a white dude home and fuck with him in ways he’s never dreamed about.

It’s a diverse and interesting evening of theater. Best of all, Loscin has refused the temptation to craft some highly personal narrative that attempts to explain what it’s like being an Asian-American in 2005. Praise Allah, Christ Jesus, Buddha, the Great Spirit and Zeus for that. I’m all for the postmodern notion that every person has their story, but if I have to sit through one more fucking play about the challenges and tribulations of being an Asian-American, or an Armenian-American, or a Latvian-American, or a Lapland-American or any other kind of ethnic-American, I’m going to scream.

Nope, Asian Acting isn’t some wearily self-referential tome about assimilation or losing one’s identity; it’s a bunch of stories about people who hail from the same general geographic area. But by sticking to a playwright’s real mission—telling a good story, not pushing an agenda or clumsily trying to make some important statement—Locsin manages to get us to care not just about this play, but about his personal concerns. And that is a dual achievement very difficult for any playwright to pull off.