Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review - Asian Belle (Midtown International Theatre Festival)

By Rebecca N. Robertson

Asian Belle was workshopped in Mark Hoverman's "Create Your Own Solo Show" workshop and appears to be a work in progress, a cathartic showing that is still seeking concise expression. Ms. Glick's breathy performance is physically overly enthusiastic. However, she has good comedic timing and the sort of genuine wide-eyed vitality that easily captures empathy and makes us want to forgive the desperate tension that impedes natural presentation.

In the first of two acts, Glick tells us what it was like for her to grow up in Alabama. The U.S. born daughter of a Vietnamese woman and an American man, she finds herself amid blonde and blue-eyed classmates that seem to have everything they want. She struggles to be accepted, embracing materialism as a means to inclusion, and sometimes denying her uniqueness for the sake of "chumming it up" with those that have little sympathy for outsiders. Years later, Ms. Glick discovers an appreciation for the heritage she once denied, and she mourns for what she has lost for the sake of assimilation.

Thematically, the second act appears to have little to do with the first. Glick portrays her mother and we learn the circumstances under which the war bride fell for her American soldier husband and came to Alabama. Mother Glick's monologue highlights a universal parental struggle to reconcile the decisions she has made for herself and, indirectly, for her children. Too much of the remaining dialogue and action appears to have little purpose than to celebrate the character's more stereotypical traits. An overused bit with a pop song quickly wears out what humor can be found there. The more genuinely entertaining moments are the most human ones, such as when she describes an encounter with her ex-husband's ridiculous new wife, her feelings of rejection plain to see.

In Asian Belle, Ms. Glick explores some interesting themes about belonging, materialism, and heritage. She gives us a tiny glimpse of her heritage through her eyes, a first generation American. She tickles us with some humorous stories of adolescent longing and adult jealousy. But she stops short of letting us claim her story as an American tale, preferring to continue to straddle two worlds rather than accept where they are one.

Asian Belle
Written and Performed by Michelle Glick
Directed by Christine Renee Miller
Lighting/Sound & Stage Manager: Guinevere Pressley
Production Coordinator: Vickie Lazos
Publicity: Judd Hollander, Bunch of People Press & PR

Featuring: Michelle Glick

Dorothy Streslin Theatre
312 W. 36th St.

July 15 @ 6:00pm
July 17 @ 3:00pm
July 23 @ 8:00pm
July 24 @ 5:00pm
August 1 @ 4:00pm

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