By Tony Adler
June 22, 2011
The title of David Henry Hwang's 2007 script denotes the Asian-American version of blackface: any instance where a non-Asian actor employs the magic of make-up to play a person of Asian heritage. Probably the most egregious example is Mickey Rooney's bucktoothed Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's. But Jonathan Pryce's turn as the Eurasian pimp in Miss Saigon stirred a lot more controversy. Pryce's presence in the role caused all kinds of indignation when the show came to Broadway in 1991. Hwang got involved in the protest--and then overwhelmed by it, according to this fascinatingly ambivalent, semi-fictional account, which ultimately expands to confront the whole notion of identity. Hwang shows up as a character (played by David Rhee), and a big part of what makes the ambivalence fascinating is his willingness to apply it to himself. Sometimes portrayed sympathetically, Hwang is just as often exposed as a damned fool. Steve Scott's production is smart and strong--though I can't imagine why, in a play so attuned to minority sensitivities, he permits a very brief but cheap caricature of a Jew.