Theater review by Helen Shaw. New Ohio Theatre (see Off Broadway). By Roland Schimmelpfennig. Dir. Ed Sylvanus Iskandar. With ensemble cast. 1hr 20mins. No intermission.
Every entrée served at the eponymous restaurant of Roland Schimmelpfennig’s The Golden Dragon is meant to come hot, very hot. And certainly the production’s five “Chinese” cooks (multitasking actors such as Stephen Duff Webber and Welker White) generate palpable heat with their rapid role-switching, fervent physical-theater score and warm good humor. But the German playwright’s comedy (flawlessly translated by David Tushingham) has something chilling at its heart. This pointillist portrait of the restaurant and its building (the cooks also become neighbors on the floors above) takes a dispassionate, God’s-eye view of lives fallen into society’s cracks. When Noah Galvin—with just a pair of chopstick antennae—starts telling the fable about the ant and the cricket, you need to gird yourself for the bubbling whimsy to coagulate into something true and very, very hard.
Once again the Play Company produces with total aesthetic confidence: Mimi Lien’s floating white box set has as many cunning folds as a takeout rice container and Katie Down’s astonishing Foley soundscape (which includes a preshow audio tour) tells its own wicked series of musical jokes. Director Ed Iskandar and his team fling everything they’ve got at us, which is appropriate, since Schimmelpfennig also operates by the more-is-more ethic. Rapid-fire dialogue comes with multiple stylistic side dishes: Actors alert us to a “slight pause” and punctuate their scenes with culinary descriptors (“Button mushrooms! Lemongrass!”). Luckily, this every-spice-in-the-cupboard strategy works: The dish may be bitter, but it’s perfectly prepared.—Helen Shaw