Monday, June 18, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W24: Teenage Dick, The Great Leap

6/12/18: Teenage Dick
What: Playwright Mike Lew adapts Richard III to a high school council election. Jointly produced by The Public Theater, Ma-Yi Theater Company, and originally commissioned and developed by The Apothetae, Teenage Dick aims for an inclusive and diverse experience, with a cast composed of two actors with disabilities, three actors of color, and only one performer who doesn't readily read as an "other" (as in, there is one actor who is able-bodied, white, and male).
And? This was a cool idea, and it had a few really strong moments, some sparks of genius. But too often, I found myself cringing at the jokes or the lack of nuance. The dramaturg's note says that "monsters are not born, they are made"; this is not the story I saw in Teenage Dick. He started off in Machiavelli Land, had a crisis of conscience, and then leaned back into the ends justifying the means. And this may be neither here nor there, but all six actors (including the one playing the teacher) seemed roughly the same age, none of which passed for teenagers, either in appearance or behavior. This play could be piercing and powerful, but it's not there yet. And while it's great to finally start seeing representation for performers with disabilities, I could wish them a better vehicle than this.

Gregg Mozgala, Shannon DeVido, and Sasha Diamond as Richard, Buck, and
Clarissa. Photo by Carol Rosegg.


6/13/18: The Great Leap
What: Eighteen years after American basketball coach Saul taught Wen Chang how to coach China's fledgling team, the two meet again for a rematch - which unfortunately coincides with the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, 1989. Manford, an aspiring Chinese American point guard, is desperate to join Saul's team in time for the rematch in Beijing. Playwright Lauren Yee wrote this partially inspired by her father's own short-lived basketball career in San Francisco.
And? This is terrific. Fantastic cast (seriously, BD Wong. But also Tony Aidan Vo and Ali Ahn and Ned Eisenberg - they are all marvelous), tight storytelling, a well-crafted and compelling narrative that metes out its revelations with a nuanced eye. The climax of the play, the basketball game itself, is riveting. Well worth a visit.

Ali Ahn, Ned Eisenberg, Tony Aidan Vo, and BD Wong as Connie, Saul,
Manford, and Wen Chang. Photo by Ahron R. Foster.

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