Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Outside People

"Outside People" at Vineyard Theatre, January 7, 2012

Playwright Zayd Dohrn brings another tale of a stranger in a strange land to the NY stage with his Outside People.

It's an earnest and awkward effort, much like its main character, Malcolm (Matt Dellapina), a recent college graduate with no job or direction in his life.  His former roommate David, (Nelson Lee) has returned to his native China to start his own business.  He flies Malcolm over to work for his company as repayment for Malcolm's kindness to his when they were students.

David arranges a date for Malcolm upon his arrival with Xiao Mei (Li Jun Li), whose murky connection to David clears up a little obviously as the true nature of David's business is revealed.

Mr. Dohrn treads very similar ground to this season's Chinglish on Broadway, but without the laughs or the interesting characters.  Also similar to Chinglish are several scenes in Chinese, yet the audience doesn't get the benefit of super-title translations at the Vineyard.  The tone certainly come through with the tone of voice and inflection, but it's a particularly frustrating experience if there are audience members who actually do understand Chinese. Ultimately, Mr. Dohrn cuts through several old stereotypes while managing to support some new ones.

The cast does their best to give depth to their characters, but the writing is a little thin for them to accomplish much.  Director Evan Cabnet continues the trend of music loudly underscoring scene changes completed by the cast with no originality in sight.  Ben Stanton's combination set borrows a bit from Allen Moyers' 2006 design for Little Dog Laughed.

In the end, it's an unremarkable production performed by competent actors.  Outside People runs through January 29.  Get tickets here.

No comments: