Tucked away in the Richard Hugo House on 11th Avenue of Capitol Hill is an exciting and touching play that answers many questions, but brings out plenty more. Ching Chong Chinaman, written by Lauren Yee and directed by Desdemona Chiang, is a play about the not-so-Chinese Wong family. The Wong family doesn’t take off their shoes when they enter their home, they don’t speak any Chinese languages, and they can’t even use chopsticks. Lighthearted and hilarious, the play naughtily uses some Asian racial names and stereotypes to introduce the deeper themes.

Tucked away in the Richard Hugo House on 11th Avenue of Capitol Hill is an exciting and touching play that answers many questions, but brings out plenty more. Ching Chong Chinaman, written by Lauren Yee and directed by Desdemona Chiang, is a play about the not-so-Chinese Wong family. The Wong family doesn’t take off their shoes when they enter their home, they don’t speak any Chinese languages, and they can’t even use chopsticks. Lighthearted and hilarious, the play naughtily uses some Asian racial names and stereotypes to introduce the deeper themes.

 

There would not be anything all that different about the Wong family if not for their single-syllable last name and the different skin tone and hair color. But solely because of that, each member of the Wong family fits neatly into their respective stereotype based on their age and gender. As noted by the playwright, unlike Americans of European descent, the matter of ethnicity cannot be escaped by some no matter how hard they try. By the same token, the search of identity is a process that everyone goes through regardless of the differences in theme or method.

 

As the plot progresses dramatically, the twists distort the typical ideas about self-identity while keeping the theater filled with laughter at the same time. By then, all the characters had grown so much that their stereotypical traits only play a small part in their existence. Being Chinese is only part of it all. It really drives home the question “what defines me as a person” no matter what one’s ethnicity is. Even disguised as an “ethnic-identity” play, Ching Chong Chinaman reaches out to all. To summarize the story, it is suspenseful, hilarious, and provocative in both its themes and ideas.

 

SiS Productions’ overall excellence gives the story and characters credibility. The many subtleties make it hard to believe they are actually actors rather than being themselves. During the enlightening short discussion following the play, some of the cast very much retained the personality of their characters. Among the many questions, a particular comment struck a chord. It is a welcoming change to see Asian actors being in roles outside of the typical boundaries – a sentiment also shared by the actors.

 

The bottom line is, Ching Chong Chinaman is highly recommended for anyone looking for an intellectually-stimulating and laughter-filled evening. The show runs until April 24th, please visit www.sis-productions.org or call 206-323-9433 for more info.

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