By: Paulanne Simmons
May 8, 2019: Made in America, an immersive theatrical experience created by Malaysian/Australian artists TerryandTheCuz only makes use of the stage at Joe’s Pub for a brief but exciting few minutes. For much of the show, the actors are seated side-by-side with the audience, ordering food, complaining about the service and commenting on what’s happening in their lives, much like typical diners in a trendy pub.
However, it soon becomes apparent that the supercilious and racist, Kathryn Chesterfield (Barbara McCulloh) and Charity (Marina Kondo), the woman who works for and is having an affair with her husband, are actually characters in a screenplay that is being written by Terry (Gavin Yap) and TheCuz (Douglas Lim), seated several tables away.
But all is not going well for the writing team because the two men can’t agree on what kind of film they want to make. And so McCulloh and Kondo play the scene in various ways. Each of the characters gets the upper hand in different versions, although they are both consistently nasty and snarky. And Kathryn’s son, Arnold, makes an appearance as both an African-American misfit (Marcus Gladney Jr.) and a white hero (Roger Wayne)
The root of the problem is that Terry wants to create an artsy, socially conscious film, while TheCuz favors an action-pack, crowd-pleaser touting traditional (read white) values. TheCuz sees salvation in a strong, white male coming to the rescue. He looks for entertainment value, at one point turning the film into a musical, hence the use of the stage. Terry claims the moral high ground by supporting all the values so dear to those on the left.
At one point, even the actors rebel, questioning why these immigrant film writers think they know so much about America and Americans. But Terry and TheCuz claim they are only two artists trying to take part in the American dream.
If Made in America satirizes present day politics, it also has great fun with the artists who reflect the cultural divide. And what better venue than a pub to tell people – lighten up, don’t take yourself so seriously and have fun?
Made in America runs through May 19 at Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette Street.