Fringeworthy

Hip Shot: Mandarin Orange

Mandarin-OrangeCaos on F

Remaining Performances:
Sunday, July 20 at 9:30 pm
Tuesday, July 22 at 8:00 pm
Thursday, July 24 at 6:00 pm
Saturday, July 26 at 10:00 pm

They say: Join a journey from Orange, Texas to Shanghai, China. This culture clash, one-woman play raises questions of identity, home and globalization. The play is based on Kate’s experiences from her tiny hometown to the bright lights of China’s largest city.

Cara's Take: Kate Robards' one woman show Mandarin Orange, is a genuinely sweet take on life in two disparate towns: Orange, TX and Shanghai, China. It begins with her mother's radio show talking about a small town occurrence on a news segment and establishes her mother as an anchor both in the town and in her life. We see Orange through her mother's slightly rose-tinted view and her own childhood perspective.

Soon, we're with her as she's experiencing Shanghai: its crowding, its hustle, and its Starbucks and IKEA. As a former expatriate myself, I found myself giggling with recognition at the women's club — the Shanghai Dolls — she joins to help get oriented in this new milieu. The characterizations in this segment are sharp and funny, with the club's moderator, Chrissie, whose slightly hysterical laugh seems to be covering a deep culture shock, a standout.

Each character has his/her own gestures or accent so we can keep up with conversations with a minimal shorthand moment. There are misunderstandings, developing cross-cultural friendships, and moments of frustration and peace. Both the Orange and the Shanghai characters have a way with words, and whether Robards is using original phrasing or remembering things these people have actually said, these phrases illustrate the moments and the people beautifully.

I did have a couple of quibbles. The music cues occasionally overwhelmed the staging. There's nothing to link the small town child-Kate with the adult who went to Shanghai, and at least one Chinese character, Andy, borders on stereotypical. Having said that, I found myself smiling throughout the show and all the way home.

A small warning: if you're in the front row, you may be touched or find yourself interacted with. If that bothers you, sit farther back.

See it if: You like warm and loving looks at differing cultures.

Skip it if: You don't understand culture shock.

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