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Stir-Friday Night! Flakes: Now Fortified With Indians!

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STIR-FRIDAY NIGHT! FLAKES: NOW FORTIFIED WITH INDIANS!, Stir-Friday Night!, at Phoenix Ascending Theatre. This Asian-American sketch-comedy troupe's latest offering is a decidedly mixed bag. Some of the performances are awfully wobbly, and about a third of the scenes should have been left on the drawing board while another third need development. But the remainder of the material is hilarious and often fascinating--double-edged takes on ethnic stereotypes carried by smart, accomplished comic acting.

The cast gets a lot of mileage out of sheer exuberance; even the weakest bits--a domineering Indian father wielding a cell phone, a heartbroken Asian girl's attempts to transcend her "inscrutability"--are executed so cheerfully it's hard not to smile. The middling stuff--auditions for Saddam Hussein's harem, a riff on ab-roller ads--is saved by the technique of standouts Rasika Mathur and Choky Lim. The best moments blend more balanced ensemble work with sharp, subtle satire: A "racial tolerance" class for shopkeepers ends with a short, striking monologue by Wayne Eji. A sketch about overly demanding Asian-American parents hits the mark from the moment the mother suggests her piano-hating son take up a more difficult instrument, the violin. And the show's finale, a courtroom scene in which an Americanized daughter sues her embarrassingly ethnic mother, is terrific; Lim and Mathur are foregrounded but don't dominate, and here the script is sharp enough to stand on its own. If only all of the show were this polished.

--Brian Nemtusak

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