Get Cultured — December 1, 2017 at 11:45 am

“A Deal” is a Multicultural Explosion


Wei-Yi Lin and Seth Moore. Photo by Ben Hider

What are we willing to lose in our lives to make it where we think we want to be? What are we ready to dispose of so we can get to our preferred destination? Who are we willing to hurt to get to the ultimate reward? These questions have been explored and examined for centuries by literary minds, philosophers, culture junkies, etc. People have been fascinated by the structure of life’s own gambling game because of the magnitude of the ask. It’s a thing that transcends culture, country and era. Since the moment one human decided he was more powerful than another, and that other human asked himself “how do I get there?,” this question has been at the center of the human condition, for better and for worse. In Zhu Yi’s new play “A Deal” this harsh reality drives the plot, which is cleverly divided into two stories, countries and continent, whose own connection manages to expose the global power of this dilemma.

This play has a lot to talk about, and all of it is relevant. The play focuses on Li Su, a young Chinese actress trying to make it in the Big Apple after attending Columbia University; something her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Li, are extremely proud of, and will let you know the moment you meet them. Because of this, Mr. and Mrs. Li are willing to leave their country and use their recently gained money to move to a strange country where they don’t speak the language. Li Su, on the other hand, has found an opportunity for her career, one she considers her last chance to make it in the entertainment industry in a country that can’t see past her ethnicity. As the two worlds collide and merge, both sets of characters go beyond their means to achieve their goals, leaving a sea of devastation and revelation that have long term consequences.

Lydia Gaston, Wei-Yi Lin and Alan Ariano. Photo bu Ben Hider

While this may seem extremely dramatic, in Yi’s hands it becomes a clever comedy that descends into a painful truth. This is a hilarious play with inventive ways to tell a story through dialogue and direction. The ensemble is strong, feeding from each other and helping each other reach the emotional resonance that is found between the laughter. There’s also a commentary about getting to where you want and realizing it’s the worst place to be in the character of the famous playwright who wrote the play Li Su is in. In this character, Yi gives us an omen for the ending, and in the process, an answer to the question. It balances out the ridiculous expectations we put on dreams we may never achieve, but also may not be what we need to be to begin with.

The show was enjoyable and had great pace, but it falls on the fact that some moments felt overwritten. There’s so much going on! From discussions about China’s global position, currency, the strain of personal relationships, the entertainment industry exploitation of people from other cultures, the disillusionment of lost loves… plus, the dilemma in the center. What would we sacrifice to get what we want? Despite it’s hiccups, “A Deal” does a great job of studying this question from every angle. “A Deal” will be on stage at Urban Stages until December 10th.

Out of 4 stars:


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