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Off Broadway

Made in China: More Than Just 70% Good

Made in China: More Than Just 70% Good
Made In China

all photos by Heidi Bohnenkamp, 2017

So much that surrounds us these days, like the title of this new show, is Made in China. What we buy, what we eat, what we decorate with, what we feed our pets; it is mostly imported from China. This inventive new musical, being expertly staged at 59E59 Theatre by the Obie- and Drama Desk-winning Wakka Wakka, wants to explore our day to day unconscious connection with a country we know so little about. And what better way, as they say in the press package, but to explore this dynamic with puppetry and song. Naturally.

Made In China

all photos by Heidi Bohnenkamp, 2017

Fascinating to watch, Made in China, written by Gwendolyn Warnock and Kirjan Waage (with help from the Made in China ensemble), is an inventive tale of discovery and awakening. It delves into the world of Mary, a middle-aged divorced mother, living alone, ignored by her children, and living with only the love of her dog. Sitting naked on her couch eating noodles (yes, there is full frontal puppet nudity and x-rated language, and a lot of it), she (a magnificent Peter Russo) sings a smart witty song, “Not Today” that is a perfect and very honest introduction to Mary, an average stereotypical American, but also to what kind of musical this show is. Bright and smart, filled with humor and depth (music and lyrics by Yan Li), we aren’t sure where it is going, but we sit back and trust that it will be a fun wild ride into a thoughtful engaging world. Mary is a self-described ‘consumer whore’ and ‘glutton’ soothing herself with over-indulgent shopping sprees and nights at home, frustrated and lonely, watching TV.

Made In China

all photos by Heidi Bohnenkamp, 2017

She spies on her next-door neighbor suspiciously (or is it something else?) usually yelling at him. Eddie Wang (an engaging and nuanced Ariel Estrada) is an ex-pat Chinese man with complicated ties to his homeland, also living by himself with only the company of his dog. Spurned on by a hand written plea for help found by Mary in a package of just purchased Christmas lights, she reaches out to her neighbor, only to be rejected. Soon after, a hilarious song and dance by some very vocal and aggressive household appliances, these two unlikely cohorts come together and find themselves sucked down into some abstract universe (creative work by Yu Ting Lin: set design; Alex Goldberg: lighting design; Tiger Cai: video animation), where they will have to join forces to survive.

Made In China

all photos by Heidi Bohnenkamp, 2017

It’s pretty inventive stuff, the journey this talented team of puppeteers (Lei-Lei Bavoil, Fang Du, Ariel Estrada, Dorothy James, Wei-Yi Lin, Andy Manjuck, Stephen J Mark, Charles Pang, Peter Russo, and Hansel Tan Shenwei) take us on. A tad simplistic at times, and could possibly use a bit of post election updating, the work overall is illuminating. With numerous catchy and surprisingly humorous songs, a singing plunger, a hungry toilet, a firefly spirit, and a predatory dragon, the two neighbors come face to face with some frightening and disturbing discovers about China, its labor policies, and their global corporate practices. They also learn a few things about themselves and each other along the way: cue the puppet porn music, please (if you get my drift). Directed by Ms. Warnock and Mr. Waage, the odyssey into activism and awareness is surreal and engaging. It’s a fantastical parallel dimension; part Muppets and Avenue Q, part middle-aged love story, part human rights documentary. All together, they create an adult-aimed puppet show that is captivating and full of surprise and laughs. It’s more than just “70% good”.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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