By Barry Willis
High-achieving siblings confront their parents and embark on an ill-fated adventure to connect with their Chinese heritage in Mike Lew’s Tiger Style. The comedy runs at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theatre through April 23.
Bryon Guo stars as computer expert Albert Chen; Carissa Ratanaphany appears opposite him as Albert’s sister Jennifer, an oncologist who plowed through Harvard University’s undergrad program in only three years. Having been driven hard by their parents their entire lives–including relentless practice on the cello for him and the piano for her–the pair hatch a plan to air their grievances at a family dinner with mom and dad (Regielen Padua, and Thomas Nguyen, respectively). Their parents are also high achievers–the father’s an engineer and the mother, a faculty member at UCLA.
…The performers in this show are tremendous, and tremendously funny…
Albert does the work of three or four programmers at his tech job, while getting scant credit for it. Jennifer is on staff at a major hospital but her personal life is a mess. She lives with a perpetually broke slacker boyfriend named Reggie (Kyle Goldman) whose sole interest seems to be installing car stereo systems. Goldman also appears as “Rus the Bus,” Albert’s goofy office colleague who gets promoted over Albert on the basis of his assertive personality alone. He also appears late in the production as an obnoxiously overbearing US Customs agent.
The siblings plan to confront mom and dad over their oppressive childhood doesn’t go well, and is the main thrust of the comedy’s first act, in which they also realize how detached they are from their Chinese roots.
To correct this, they decide to abandon their lives in America and journey to mainland China, where their only contact is their somewhat remote relative “Cousin Chen” (also Padua), who does her best to guide them in the strange, overcrowded country. A series of mishaps gets them arrested and thrown into an interrogation center overseen by the malevolent Gen. Tso (also Nguyen). They don’t speak a word of Chinese but somehow are seen as spies or foreign agents. All of this transpires on a simple set by Jeffrey Cook that’s little more than flat panels that slide back and forth into place, enabling rapid set changes.
Will Albert and Jennifer be able to escape? Will they ever return to America? The performers in this show are tremendous, and tremendously funny. Well-directed by M. Graham Smith, Tiger Style deftly manages to compress immigrants’ history, the Asian work ethic, childhood deprivations, personal aspirations, private misgivings, and cultural misunderstandings into a quick-moving comedy of errors.
|M. Graham Smith
|Through Apr 23rd
|3333 Petaluma Blvd North
Petaluma, CA 94952
|$30 – $40
|Max in each category is 5/5
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