LITTLE DRAGON by Keira Loughran, directed by Marion de Vries, with Loughran, Angela Besharah, Richard Lee, Michelle Polak, Nina Lee Aquino and Julian Doucet. Presented by K'Now Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille at the Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson). Runs to January 30, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $25-$34, Sunday pwyc-$16, limited same-day $10 rush. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Little Dragon, Keira Loughran's funny and energetic play about a young Chinese-Canadian woman's search for identity, worked better as a 55-minute SummerWorks play than it does in its current two-act, two-hour (with interval) incarnation.
Unaware of her Chinese heritage, Jennifer Macdonald (Loughran) only realizes people see her as different when she enters white-bread Queen's University. Surrounded by drinking frat boys and Highland dancing girls, she doesn't quite fit in until she meets Euge ( Michelle Polak ), a Jewish lesbian who also introduces her to the Japanese martial art of aikido.
Intrigued by (and maybe smitten with?) her instructor ( Richard Lee ), she begins questioning her Asian identity, although her maternal grandmother ( Nina Aquino ) doesn't provide much helpful information.
Director Marion de Vries incorporates martial arts moves (Lee's credited with being a "fight director") into the staging that at times cleverly underscore the power dynamics in conversations and relationships.
But the show's over-the-top production - too many tumbles, too many symbolic cymbal clashes from sound designer Lyon Smith - only draws our attention to the holes in the script and central character.
The first act ends with little at stake, and the second - during which Jennifer thinks she might be the love child of kung fu star Bruce Lee - feels messily patched together. The elements of Trevor Schwellnus 's set never cohere. What's most glaring, though, is Loughran's failure to locate the script's emotional core.
Too bad, because there's lots of good work in the show. Loughran is always watchable and sympathetic as the questing Jennifer, while Polak delivers the show's best lines - mostly snappy cultural comments - with complete conviction.
Lee plays his dual roles as the aikido instructor and Bruce Lee with admirable discipline, and Angela Besharah plays the thankless role of Jennifer's dorm mate with infectious energy.
From Rough House's comic pratfalls to Trout Stanley's eccentrics and Little Dragon's kicks, there's lots to enjoy in T.O. theatres