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FOB; Comedy by David Henry Hwang. Directed by Mako

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East meets East amid a California setting in David Henry Hwang's "FOB" (meaning "fresh off the boat"). In a theatrically provocative combination of realism and fantasy, the new comic drama at the Public/Martinson Hall dramatizes the encounter between Dale (Calvin Jung), an "ABC" (American-born Chinese) and two Chinese immigrants. Dale's young cousin Grace (Ginny Yang) was born in Hong Kong but has grown up and been educated in the United States. The "fresh off the boat" Oriental is Steve (John Lone), a strangely enigmatic young man just arrived from Hong Kong.

The circumstance leads to an extended examination of the contrasting attitudes expressed by American-born Chinese and by more recent arrivals. Dale and Grace understand each other and the American way of life. But the friction between the hip Dale and the naively arrogant Steve reveals that shared ethnic backgrounds guarantee nothing in the way of shared perspectives.

The scene of the action is the back room of the small Chinese restaurant run by Grace's family. To explore the complex drives motivating his three characters, Mr. Hwang introduces passages of fantasy in which Steve and Grace assume characters from Chinese legend and mythology. Finally, with the help of traditional black-garbed stagehands of the Chinese theater and a conveniently movable set, the little restaurant expands into the arena for mortal combat between Steve as a warrior god and Grace as a warrior queen. The battle has been splendidly staged by Mr. Lone, and the mood is further heightened by Lucia Hwong and her offstage magicians. Akira Yoshimura and James E. Mayo devised the breakaway setting.

By the time "FOB" has returned to Torrance, Calif., quite a lot has been accomplished. The gifted 22-year-old playwright succeeds not only in delineating the differences that separate his characters but has suggested broader problems faced by the Oriental as member of an ethnic minority in the United States.Although "ABC" Dale knows the score for survival and even successful economic status, he sharply articulates the humiliations inflicted by discrimination and racial stereotyping on the individual who simply wants to be treated as a human being.

A sensitive, insightful, and multileval play, "FOB" makes unusual demands on its cast. These demands are expressively met by the New York Shakespeare Festival's Asian-American Company under Mako's direction. As Grace, Miss Yang balances a delicate femininity with a firm and independent practicality (and she is no mean warrior woman!). In the role of Steve, Mr. Lone cleverly assumes a variety of accents and aspects as he presents one or another facet of the rich new immigrant. Mr. Jung's Dale is a savvy and perceptive ABC."FOB" joins East and West creatively.


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