In this assortment of ten-minute plays, eight sets of performers approach a knotty question: What does it mean to be an Asian mother, and what do her kids make of that? The performers, playwrights and directors assembled by Mia Park for this A-Squared Theatre Workshop production have roots in China, Korea, the Philippines, Japan and Burma, which makes for an appealing range of viewpoints.
Mood and subject matter vary widely, from profound to somber to mundane. In Neal Ryan Shaw’s very funny “This Is Why I Don’t Drink,” an American son (Alex Wu) and his Filipino mother (Ginger Leopoldo) watch an episode of her favorite soap; their masterful reactions allow us to see a TV screen in thin air. “Eight Turkey Sandwiches,” which Park wrote and performs, captures the tragedy of North Korean oppression and the gnaw of survivors’ guilt in a food-preparation ritual that stuns with its poignancy. Not all of the actors are adept enough to transform the spare set. Hope Kim delivers soulful keyboarding but an unfocused affect in “Piano.”
As a finale, “Tiger Mom”—a mini musical that taps into the anxiety purportedly sweeping upper-middle-class Caucasian households thanks to the parenting book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother—is a strange choice. It’s clever and contains a satisfying surprise, but closing on white performers razzing an Asian mom’s advice (however controversial) blurs the dignity of the seven other testimonies.