THE LUNAR CONSPIRACY: BIRTH OF AN ASIAN, Stir-Friday Night!, at Live Bait Theater. It's a challenge to get laughs from a community's crises of cultural identity and ambivalence about assimilation. Undeterred, this troupe of Asian-American sketch comics delivers alternately deft and dull variations on their theme, a chicken-or-egg conundrum: which comes first, Asian or American? A question framed in one pointed scene as: which heritage would "Tokyo Rose" have supposedly exploited in getting Asian-American soldiers to defect?
The setup here is that invading aliens have cloned "prototypical Orientals" whose "quiet submission" will slowly overwhelm the arrogant white rulers. Unfortunately, Errol McLendon's scattershot staging fritters away this promising premise with scenes that last too long (like one in which an Asian-American rebel wants to be a country-western singer instead of a doctor), that don't pull their weight (a boy learns he's the illegitimate son of Elvis and Mrs. Don Ho), or that involve inexplicable anachronisms (Senator Joseph McCarthy and the Beatles). The Lunar Conspiracy is rife with promising bits that lapse into mere incongruity: long-horned Asian beetles with Liverpool accents, a Jenny Craig jingle sung (horribly) to a medley of tunes from Cabaret, an Asian doo-wop trio trying to break into Soul Train, female scientists seduced by bodiless drones.
The best work uses character to charm. Choky Lim's computer geek has a crackpot enthusiasm that's instantly endearing. And Jennifer Liu makes her overwritten country-western singer delightfully indomitable. But however wry, the performances can't remedy this revue's incoherence.