Asiansploitation is a local comedy institution: an all-Asian company which strives to create work for audiences who — except for nerds and “kooky ethnics” — rarely get to see themselves in comedy spaces.
Be More Pacific (their new revue, running at the Toronto Fringe Festival) continues their legacy of exploring all facets of life from an explicitly Asian-Canadian perspective: identity, culture, authenticity, ancestry and modern living are all on the table.
The best moments of Be More Pacific are all rooted in the company speaking nearest to their own hearts. When they choose to take risks, when they pick hard or rare targets, and when they’re delivering material they believe in, they really go places.
But this show’s got a lot of formula in it (viz: a whole sketch about airport security), and at times I found that it also hit an unfortunate rhythm, to the point where you could almost set your watch to the punchlines.
Worst of all, there are a few moments which felt like real speed bumps, including a courtroom sketch which got dangerously close to out-and-out trivializing consent and sexual assault, and — most worrying of all — the lengthy, movement-oriented introduction and ending segments. It didn’t feel like the performers were really invested in these movement portions, as if they were (pardon the pun) just going through the motions.
As performers, Ellie Posadas and Tiffany Kwan stood out: Kwan hits all the right notes in a featured bit about Chinese censorship and later lands a note-perfect parody of a concerned mother, while Posadas has a knack for performance (and, in particular, how to draw and share focus) which helped herself and the others to shine. I wish the others had more to do — and I wish they hadn’t made Anthony Tran shout half of his lines.
The opening night performance needed a fair amount of polish: cues were missed, lines were flubbed, and actors occasionally found themselves standing in the dark when they missed their marks. These things will be ironed out as the run progresses. But between this lack of polish and the structural problems I’m trying to tease out here, it’s difficult to recommend this one to a broad audience.
- Asiansploitation: Be More Pacific plays at the Robert Gill Theatre. (214 College St)
- All tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warnings: Mature Language, Audience Participation.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- Friday July 1st, 09:45 pm
- Saturday July 2nd, 11:30 pm
- Sunday July 3rd, 01:45 pm
- Tuesday July 5th, 04:30 pm
- Thursday July 7th, 07:30 pm
- Friday July 8th, 12:00 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 10:30 pm
Production photo features, clockwise from top left, James Cheng, Jeff B. Santos, Anthony Tran, Ellie Posadas and Tiffany Kwan. Production photo by Jane Luk.