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The Two Kids That Blow $h*t Up

a Comedy/Drama
by Carla Ching

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Discovery Point Studio [WEBSITE]
ID# 5339

SHOWING : September 07, 2018 - September 30, 2018



Diana and Max meet at 9 years old, the day their parents start having an affair. In the ensuing decades, they see each other through highs and lows, trying not to make the same mistakes their parents did, with both hilarity and poignancy. A play about trying not to fall in love with your best friend so you end up hating them.

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Acute and Obtuse
by playgoer
Monday, September 17, 2018
Aurora Theatre is patting itself on its back for presenting its first show by an Asian-American writer, with an Asian-American cast and Asian-American production personnel. Its first duty, however, should be to present quality, professional entertainment, and this show falls far short in that department.

Judging by the profanity in the title and the hype of a prototypical Asian-American voice, you’d expect that all Asian-Americans are as foul-mouthed and emotionally disturbed as the characters in this play. That, of course, is ridiculous. And the Asian-American component of the plot is paper-thin. The kids go to Chinese language class in one scene and Di wears a Chinese-style sheath in another. That’s about it. The cliché that Asian faces don’t age is expressed, but since an Asian-American speaks it, this racial stereotype is supposed to be self-referential and funny.

Other points in the story are equally paper-thin. Di has epilepsy, we’re told at a couple of points, but maybe she outgrew it, since there’s no mention of it after her childhood. Max blows up a snowman at age nine, and we’re told he blew up a trash can at school before that, and we’re told that as an adult teacher he has a penchant for flashy experiments, but the "blow [things] up" of the title turns metaphorical all too soon, with Di and Max’s self-sabotaging relationship (and possibly that of their parents) being what gets "blown up."

The story is told in segments that go forward and back in time. It’s confusing. There are so many fights and reconciliations in the story of Di and Max and their parents that it becomes nearly impossible to figure out what the true arc of the relationships is. The show starts with the characters at 38, meeting after a break of a few years. This scene ends with Di telling Max that she has to show him something. When we see this scene again later in the show (verbatim), we’re led to believe that something important is about to be revealed. No such luck. It’s a letdown, as the show overall is.

Pam Joyce has directed the play to heighten the emotions at each conceivable point, and it comes across as utterly false in the performance of Jack Ha as Max, who nevertheless has great projection in his voice. His performance seems that of a high school drama star in his first semester at college. Vivi Thai is wonderful as Diana, but her subtlety and variety of expression is in such contrast to Mr. Ha’s performance that she seems to exist in a different universe from him. It’s hard to feel much connection to characters that Ms. Ching has speak in adult cadences and vocabulary when nine years old and who seem so mismatched.

The production team seems to have pulled out all the stops to disguise the disjointed flimsiness of the script. Eric Chamness’ in-the-round scenic design is all acute and obtuse angles in the central vaguely octagonal platform and the square set of rhomboids suspended from the ceiling above it. Matthew Peddie’s lighting design illuminates the rhomboids both inside and out, changing color to provide interest in scenes where the onstage action doesn’t provide it. Anna Lee’s sound design gets a workout during the many scene changes, with a trapezoidal, seat-high platform in the center rotating from scene to scene (and even during one restaurant scene), with concrete block-shaped units rearranged as seating, bleachers, and tables. Sherry Zhao’s projections, displayed on screens with rhomboid shapes on all four audience walls, do their best to set scenes and indicate character ages for the many, many scenes jumping forward and backward in time and, for the important nine-year-old scene, displaying the unstageable action that Ms. Ching has written into her script.

Jae Hee Kim’s costume design provides a lot of changes, especially for Ms. Thai, but the costumes tend to look pretty costume-y. Jillian Haughey’s props are fine, and the running crew of Amy Duffy and Monique Gillis implement the many scene changes with precision. Ms. Joyce has blocked the show adequately for the in-the-round setting, although face-to-face conversations between the characters sometimes present only the back of one character to opposite sides of the audience. Acoustics aren’t always great when characters are facing away from the audience.

Carla Ching is a celebrated new playwright. Why is a mystery to me, based on this incoherent, uninteresting two-hander. Perhaps Horizon’s upcoming production of her "Nomad Motel" will produce a more favorable impression. Aurora should perhaps wait to pat itself on the back for its embrace of Asian-American racial diversity until it can produce a truly sterling piece of work. This show ain’t it. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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