Off-Broadway Theater Review: THE GOLDEN DRAGON (The Play Company at The New Ohio Theatre)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on May 14, 2013

in Theater-New York

A PLAY CANNOT LIVE ON CONCEPT ALONE

Nicole Pearce’s lighting and Katie Down’s sound design and musical compositions, which are works of art in themselves, go a long way in helping make The Play Company’s production of Roland Schimmelpfennig’s The Golden Dragon (translated by David Tushingham) a dynamic and exciting, if not completely satisfying, spectacle. Five actors playact a variety of parts in this unique and at times delightful invention, directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, which follows several storylines that take place in and around an Asian fusion restaurant which bears the show’s name.

We begin in the restaurant’s kitchen, where four cooks work at breakneck speed filling orders as a young Chinese helper screams on the floor from a toothache. Then we find ourselves in an apartment above the restaurant, where an old man laments his age. In another apartment a middle-aged man gets drunk in anticipation of his wife’s imminent and permanent departure. We visit a liquor store next door to the Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema Off broadway review of "The Golden Dragon" - The Play Co. at the New Ohioeatery that is run by an old letch. We meet two stewardesses having dinner at the Golden Dragon; they too live upstairs. Aesop’s fable of the cricket and the ant is played out before us, only in this version the ant forces the cricket into prostitution in exchange for giving her scraps of his food. And we meet a young couple in conflict about the woman’s pregnancy.

The description of this show — performed on Mimi Lien’s white stage, divided into three sections by two while columns with a crawlspace underneath — sounds fantastic, like some mythological creation, surreal and poetic. But as interesting as the ideas behind The Golden Dragon are, the way in which they are worked out is banal and predictable. When the old man reflects on how bad it is to be old, for instance, his complaints are pedestrian. And the same can be said for most of the details that fill out the various storylines. As unusual and intriguing as the concept behind this play is, the writing is prosaic.

Dressed in Loren Shaw’s white chef’s uniforms, the capable actors (Noah Galvin, Peter Kim, K.K. Moggie, Stephen Duff Webber, Welker White) perform at full-throttle, barely taking a breath, and their energy and commitment is admirable in and of itself. Mr. Iskandar’s intention seems to be to create a show that is entirely self-conscious. He has the performers read stage directions, and some of this works, such as when they are establishing a change in location. But when they keep saying Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema Off broadway review of "The Golden Dragon" - The Play Co. at the New Ohio“pause” or “short pause” in the midst of their monologues it feels unnecessary and quickly gets very annoying (the “short pause” thing only works dramatically in one instance and on the whole doesn’t seem to be worth it).

On the one hand Mr. Iskandar’s approach creates a party atmosphere, one that is immediate and inclusive. On the other it makes it difficult for us to suspend our disbelief and to really sympathize with any of the characters. It would be interesting to see what could be done if the action were to be slowed down a bit and the performers given a moment to really play – as opposed to playact – their different personages.

photos by Carol Rosegg

The Golden Dragon
The Play Company at The New Ohio Theatre
scheduled to end on June 9, 2013
for tickets, call (866) 811-4111 or visit The Play Company

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