Magazine article American Theatre

Berlin, Sweet and Sour

Magazine article American Theatre

Berlin, Sweet and Sour

Article excerpt

DON'T SHOW UP TO ROLAND SCHIMMELPFENNIG'S The Golden Dragon on an empty stomach. The prolific, award-winning German playwright, celebrated in Europe and now gaining traction in the U.S., sets his drama in a "Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese fast-food restaurant" that serves as a frequent culinary pit stop to dwellers in a Berlin apartment complex and the surrounding neighborhood. Characters order mouth-watering dishes throughout the play, like "Number 31: Gai Grob Prio Wan, crispy chicken breast with morels, pineapple and peach in sweet and sour sauce," and "Number 6: Thai soup with chicken, coconut milk, Thai ginger, tomatoes, button mushrooms, lemon grass and lemon leaves (hot)." (One wonders if, in addition to set, costume and lighting designers, there's also a smell designer.)

In The Golden Dragon, produced by New York City's Play Company at the New Ohio Theatre May 8--June 9, five actors take on 15 roles. Age, ethnic background and gender become moot as actors morph from one role to the next in short nonlinear scenes: a young Chinese kitchen-hand suffers from an excruciating toothache. Without insurance or working papers, he receives an impromptu extraction in the kitchen. The tooth flies into the soup of a customer. Meanwhile, two stewardesses converse on the ground while interludes about an elegant grasshopper that is violated and abused by a cricket pepper the goings-on.

Schimmelpfennig's play was not inspired by a trip to the dentist or the exterminator but by "a group of young, mostly illegal aliens and a lawyer who took up their cases in Germany and Europe," says the playwright, who wanted to write a play about immigration issues while avoiding documentary-theatre tendencies. …

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