Theatre Review: Twisting Fortunes is just like “real dating” – same challenges with dating Asians or Caucasians too!

Theatre Review: Twisting Fortunes is just like “real dating”
– same challenges with dating Asians or Caucasians too!




Twisting Fortunes
February 6, 7, 8, 9,
8pm
Playwrights Theatre Centre (1398
Cartwright Street)
on Granville Island.
Tickets $10 at the door.

Whether
or not you have dated an Asian or a Caucasian, you will relate to this
play.  Playwrights Grace Chin and Charlie Cho, have created a
witty and sharply funny play about dating (or non-dating) in
Vancouver's cyber-café culture.  Filled with hip pop culture
references that clash with traditional dating expectations, Twisting Fortunes
explores the netherland of dating culture's “do's and don'ts” while
adding an inter-cultural spice with references and comparisons to
dating Asians and non-Asians. 

Gee… just like real life!  At least from an Asian-Canadian
perspective…  Growing up As-Can (that's Asian-Canadian) in a WC
(White-Canadian) dominated world, you really don't have many chances to
see people that look like yourself in plays, movies or theatre – except
in stereotypical roles.  Indeed, this is how writers Chin and Cho
felt, as they drew on their own life experiences and friendship, to
create a “MIV” (made in Vancouver) cultural theatre experience. 
Amazingly, it doesn't feel forced.  The main characters Ray Chow
and Jessie Leong, played by Zen Shane Lim and Grace Chin, just happen
to be both Chinese-Canadian… but that doesn't mean they don't date
Whites – they have.  They just weren't looking in particular to
date somebody Chinese either.

Sparks start to fly when Ray Chow,
a young reporter covering a flash mob, is soon asked by Jessie Leong
what happened.  After some light flirtatious banter they
whimiscally decide to meet the next day at a cafe, without exchanging
cards or phone numbers.  Echoing romantic comedies of the past,
“if it is meant to be, it is meant to be.”  And so begins a
journey of accidental meetings, flirtations with sexual tension.

Ray and Jessie get off to a rocky start, as Ray starts guessing that a
couple of smooching Asians in the café are Japanese… or American.  Jessie
challenges him on his stereotyping assumptions, to soon discover that
Ray isn't really comfortable in his As-Can skin:

“I grew up in this really White
community. I didn't really know any other Asian women but my mom and
sisters.  Sure, I went to Chinese school on Saturdays, but I just
thought Asian women were – nerdier.”

They also discuss they they don't date Asians, citing parental
expectations.  Jessie, who is in the film business as an
actor/writer, says:

“There was this Chinese guy I dated. He
was nice and all that, but his mom didn't like me. She wanted me to be
more “Chinese.” And he always caved in and took her side.

“My next boyfriend was – well, White, but it was a total suprise. I
mean, before then, I couldn't even imagine myself dating a White guy.

“Because I didn't think they'd be into me. And I couldn't imagine
dealing with all that White guy-ness. They smell different, right?”

Hmm… So much for the “nice Chinese girl” stereotype for Jessie –
especially when she says “by the way, I didn't notice a size
difference.”

Just two people talking, like in the movies Before Sunrise, and Before Sunset
And like the characters of Jesse and Celine, their conversations reveal
not only an attraction, but also their defensive personalities that
have prevented them from achieving any truly real happiness in their
lives.  We learn that Ray prefers not to “date” but rather to have
“friends.”  This helps keep Ray free from overly committing
himself to a relationship, whereas Jessie prefers “serial
monogamy.” 

I went to see Twisting Fortunes on Thursday night, and it is
surprisingly good.  The audience was mostly Asian but there were
also a number of mixed race couples too.  Almost immediately
during the intermission, people were talking about the first act and
it's statements about dating.

With
my friends, we immediately started comparing dating experiences with
both Chinese, Caucasian or other Asian dates.  True or False…
Asian males are
intimidated by Asian females… or Asians are more reserved in dating
behavoirs… Asians don't bring dates home to meet the parents. There
is/isn't any difference in size.

The
second half becomes darker, and more entangled.  The friendship
between Jessie and Ray alternates between going deeper, or more
estranged.  They are still trying to work out what they are doing,
not only in their own lives – but in relationships with others, and as friends to each other… or is it something more?

Many
people who have watched the ongoing theatre soap series “Sex in
Vancouver” put on by Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre will be familiar
with actor Zen Shane Lim, who played Kevin in all the episodes except
the final one.  Kathy Leung who filmed the videos for “Sex in
Vancouver” is the director here, and is able to transform the small
black box theatre into a very flexible space – utilizing almost every
inch. 

A large video screen shows different scenes as the
characters move from street scene to cafe, from restaurant to
apartment, and from art gallery to street scene.  It is an
effective way of conveying moods and settings and is never intrusive,
but always suggesting.


Twisting Fortunes
is a welcome addition to the Asian Canadian arts community.  It
reflects accurately the social experiences of Asian Canadians without
being preachy or political.  The characters are well-crafted and
the audience quickly is drawn into their developing
non-relationship.  The sexual tension is playful and drawn out,
and reflective of deeper socio-cultural currents – hinted at but never
fully explored, nor does it need to be.  If you ever wondered what
when wrong in your ex-relationship with that Asian guy/girl – check out
this play and maybe you will find the reason.

Grace Chin and Kathy Leung are the hosts of Scripting Aloud, a monthly scriptreading and networking event for scriptwriters and actors, held at Our Town Café (245
E. Broadway, Vancouver, BC).
It was at these sessions that Twisting Fortunes was workshopped and
honed before being presented in it's finished form at the Playwright's
Theatre.

Twisting Fortunes opened earlier this week on
Tuesday, but by Thursday – the final Friday show was already sold
out.  With largely word of mouth, networking and some choice
interviews on CBC Radio and elsewhere, Twisting Fortunes seems to have
quickly found its audience.  Too bad it can't run for another
week.  Here's hoping for a remount soon… and maybe even a sequel.

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