DREAMS OF BLONDE & BLUE by MJ Kang, directed by Guillermo Verdecchia, with Denis Akiyama, Paul Braunstein, Brenda Kamino, Kang and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. Presented by Cahoots Theatre Projects and Theatre Passe Muraille at Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Runs to February 10, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $21-$30, Sunday pwyc. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
twenty-something julia kim has the same parent and boyfriend problems many North Americans face. But the Korean roots she tries to ignore cause added angst in MJ Kang's dreams of blonde & blue, a play that grows in strength as the characters of Julia and her mother do.The first act of this Cahoots/Passe Muraille co-pro doesn't sufficiently exploit the tension between a demanding father (Denis Akiyama) and his rebellious daughter (Kang), or between the father and his fashion-conscious wife (Brenda Kamino). The words are there but the feelings aren't, except in Akiyama's moving, nuanced portrait of an immigrant hoping that his ongoing ill luck -- financial and familial -- is about to change.
Paul Braunstein does well in a number of roles, while Paul Sun-Hyung Lee's grandfather gives the script its simplest and most dignified moments under Guillermo Verdecchia's direction.
Things improve dramatically in the second act, where emotions become strong and palpable. The writing makes good use of flashbacks and fantasy, though the family's tragic secret at the play's end is melodramatic and forced. Kang's tale, one thread in our cultural mix, offers some tantalizing episodes but needs some reweaving.