Digging to America | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Digging to America 

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DIGGING TO AMERICA, Stir-Friday Night! at National Pastime Theater. Ask your average improvisational comedian to name the three anthropological races, and the answer you'll probably get is "black, white, and Hispanic"--so the existence of an Asian improv troupe shouldn't come as a surprise. But with a ready-made audience comes pressure to deliver, often leading to a product more distinguished by concept than execution.

Digging to America is characterized by such material, the most promising of which is the parody of martial-arts films that pits Tiger Woods against a Nike-knockoff champion in a golf match to the death that includes slow-motion Three Stooges-style combat. The truth in a Chinese widow treating her husband's funeral as an opportunity to marry off her son ("She doesn't even have to be Chinese!" she wails) may be largely lost on non-Asian audiences, and the singles-bar scenes and gender-relations dialogue may appear hackneyed unless you're from a culture that's still shocked by overt expressions of sexuality.

As if to compensate for the inside humor, director Ken Hamada scatters annoying low-comedy hee-haws throughout the action. But what Stir-Friday needs is not more gags, but ideas with a specific focus that are sufficiently developed to achieve universality.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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