Born in the USA | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Born in the USA 

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Born in the USA, North Avenue Productions, at the Chicago Dramatists Workshop. The so-called Asian-American experience is a far more complex phenomenon than our statistic-simple society would have us believe: Ulan Bator is as distant from Singapore as the building of the railroads is from the fall of Saigon. This diversity is reflected in the ten short plays of Born in the USA: for every old-world/new-world drama of reconciliation between generations like Le Wen Huang's Beautiful Country there's a tale like Greg Nishimura's first-person account of the Caucasian fiancee who preached pride in one's heritage but shrank from the prospect of Eurasian children. Quincy Wong's divisive No Bonanza is nicely balanced by Nishimura's sweetly romantic, universally appealing Record Store.

The evening not only involves ten widely varying vignettes but, unfortunately, a big range in the quality of the productions. The cogent insights in Marie Yuen's Silk Scarf and My Father's Father might have been brought out more clearly by better direction, while Johannes Marlena's Emotional Vampires and 2 Actors have little going for them but are redeemed by the actors. In the end, however, the only part of this anthology likely to speak loud and clear to all Americans comes during the intermission: a medley of themes from TV shows with at least one Asian character.

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