Saturday, January 21, 2012

Revew: (Toronto) The Golden Dragon

Foreground: Tony Nappo, David Fox; Background: David Yee
(photo credit: Cylla von Tiedemann)
Sit back and enjoy your meal. 
“Number 6: Thai soup with chicken, coconut milk, Thai ginger, tomatoes, button mushrooms, lemon grass and lemon leaves (hot).” 
by Dave Ross

Exotic dishes from Asia pepper Tarragon Theatre’s production of Roland Schimmelpfennig’s The Golden Dragon, in its Canadian premiere under the direction of Ross Manson, Artistic Director of Toronto’s Volcano Theatre. The Golden Dragon tells the stories of a number of characters, all of whom live seemingly-disparate lives: a young man from China with no landing papers, two flight attendants, two young lovers, and a neighbouring shopkeep, to name just a few. The common thread that binds these characters together is the “Chinese/Vietnamese/Thai restaurant” and its enticing menu.

Schimmelpfenig’s intertwining stories are fascinating to watch, becoming more riveting as each thread winds closer and closer to the others.

The Golden Dragon is an intimate production, told using a cast of only five, with sound, lighting, and simple props to assist in portraying a shift of location, time, or character. The script demands near-instantaneous shifts from one character to the next which, in turn, requires excellent performers. For the most part, Tarragon has succeeded. David Fox, cast as “The Man Over Sixty” is brilliant as a Vietnamese cook, a young lover, and a flight attendant. Tony Nappo, “A Man,” transitions easily between a young woman in a red dress and a cook in the kitchen of the restaurant. The real treat, however, is in watching Anusree Roy, cast as “A Young Woman” as she shifts from character to character. The sophistication of her transitions from character to narrator is remarkable and effortless. David Yee performs well in his multiple roles, including some of the more difficult emotional material in the play. It is unfortunate that the excellence of these performances highlights the not-always-successful efforts of Lili Francks—her characters seem interchangeable, lost amongst the diversity we see in the other performers. It is clear she makes an effort, changing her stance and physique with each role, but her vocal delivery fails to change in tandem with her physique. However, as a whole the cast performs excellently together, easily capturing the frenetic nature of working in a small kitchen to portraying an intimate discussion between lovers.

The play is character driven and quite fragmented at the beginning, making the process of settling into the story take longer than one would hope. Additionally, there are some repetitious elements of the dialogue that become tiresome through overuse. However, Schimmelpfenig’s intertwining stories are fascinating to watch, becoming more riveting as each thread winds closer and closer to the others. The simple set design by Teresa Przybylski is ingenious allowing us to move from locale to locale complemented by the excellent lighting designed by Rebecca Picherak. The production is completed with a lush soundscape created by Thomas Ryder Payne.

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