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A CurtainUp DC Review
The Golden Dragon
At Studio Theatre The Golden Dragon, Schimmelpfennig's 2009 play about globalization and the abuse of (often illegal) immigrants is currently having its U.S. premiere. The setting is a small, hot kitchen of a Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant called The Golden Dragon. Five actors (Sarah Marshall, Joseph Anthony Foronda, Amir Darvish, KK Moggie and Chris Myers) of various ethnicities take on 16 roles. They display the finesse required to make an ensemble perform as a whole. Men play women, women play men, the old play the young and vice versa. For the most part, the actors having been given such a rich opportunity to show their range are very convincing in their roles.
The plot, which unfolds in a series of vignettes, goes like this: a boy from China who works in the kitchen develops a terrible toothache. With no insurance and no papers he dare not go to a dentist. One of his fellow workers removes the tooth with a huge wrench. The boy gets an infection, loses blood and dies. His corpse is dropped from a bridge and floats back to China. The extracted tooth also follows an interesting path.
Other than the kitchen workers the characters include two world-weary airline stewardesses, played admirably by Amir Darvish and Joseph Anthony Foronda. As the woman over 60, a winsome grand-child, and a drunken corner store owner, Sarah Marshall gives a very controlled performance. She's funny, too. KK Moggie is very effective as the Young Woman, boy with a bad tooth, and a cuckolded husband. Chris Myers has the toughest role in that his characters, the Young Man and a crime victim, are the least believable. However, he is amusing as the waitress who wears a lily behind her ear. Myers and Marshall do their best with a metaphor about a cricket and an ant that runs through the piece although some may find the meaning of their dialogue illusive.
Director Serge Seiden keeps his actors and their multiple characters in check, which is particularly important as they could easily slide into parody or farce. Debra Booth's setting -- a spare stage with a bench along the back wall -- serves the actors and playwright well. Michael Giannitti's lighting is excellent throughout but it is particularly effective when he creates shadows that are reminiscent of Indonesian puppets.
Schimmelpfennig is not for the literal-minded. He's not part of that zone. His Dragon resembles an acting exercise rather than a well-told story but it is intriguing and keep its audience in suspense for nearly all of its 80 minutes. Studio is to be commended for introducing Washington to this popular European author.
For or London critic's take on Schimmelpfenng's play go here.
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