This review comes from Night Writes guest reviewer Nicole Pingon.
Zhu Yi’s A Deal, delves into the conflicts between the East and West, old and new ways of thinking and the love and passion that drives us all. Through her wit and humour, Yi presents an intriguing Chinese perspective on the generational and cultural conflicts that exist as a result of a globalised America.
Li Su (Kathrine Nheu) is a budding actress, quickly jaded by the reality that in the industry of show business, roles aren’t made for people like her: young, enthusiastic and Chinese. We watch as she discovers the power in her “difference,” and capitalises on the lie of a “tragic immigrant story” to land herself a lead role on Broadway and find her fame.
All the while, Su’s crazy rich parents (Shi-Kai Zhang and Susan Young) travel from Shanghai to New York to hand deliver one million dollars cash to their beloved only child, in the hopes of supporting her dreams. In the big city, they begin to explore their own desire for the American Dream, property shopping to get amongst the “authentic” American way of life.
Despite monetary scams, uncovering their daughter’s twisted secret life, and being faced by a past lover, Mr and Mrs Li ground us through their love and earnestness. Zhang and Young both bring their jovial nature to the roles, embodying the love and sacrifice immigrant parents make to provide their children with the best life, a happiness they could only dream of.
The supporting ensemble deliver consistently delightful performances throughout, bringing a gentle comedy and lightness that invited the audience to laugh out loud, unashamedly. Edric Hong’s Peter was an embodiment of new ways of thinking for Chinese immigrants in America, and his sadness reminiscing his unrequited love for Mrs Li, was funny and memorable.
Under Shiya Lu’s direction, an understated comedy radiates throughout, drawing audiences into the off-kilter world of A Deal. Lu’s considered approach allowed Chinese antics to flourish, from the comfort of Mr Li’s tea thermos, shiny rings worn by Mrs Li, to the subtle competitive nature that underlies every social interaction.
Victor Kalka’s solid and functional design allowed for clear shifts between place and time. Sound designer, Luna Y Pan curated a collection of pop songs that evoked a sense of nostalgia and desire to dance, while also effectively distracting from scene transitions, which at times were slightly too long.
Yi cleverly shines light on the various dichotomies that underlie the immigrant experience between generations: Eastern v Western ideals, old v new ways of thinking, both on the micro level of familial relationships and identity and the macro level of global politics and economics. Her approach to these big ideas were witty, tongue-in-cheek and provided a much needed fresh lens on the way these conflicts manifest today.
A Deal is an exciting new work that delves into the challenges immigrants of all generations face, the sacrifices they make to settle into a new country, and the actions individuals will go to simply find a place to fit in.
A Deal is running at Chippen St Theatre from August 22nd – 31st