Chicago Theatre Review
Fast and Furious Storytelling
Sideshow Theatre Company presents The Golden Dragon
The Golden Dragon knocks you off your feet faster than an order of Thai food extra hot. The play takes a surreptitious route to getting to its dark message, but when the production is done, you are left speechless. The story takes place around a restaurant called The Golden Dragon that serves Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese food. The four restaurant employees are dealing with a recently hired Chinese boy whose tooth needs to be pulled out. But around this central plot, there are multiple other story lines going on. There is a young couple who is unexpectedly pregnant, a couple who are breaking up, a pair of stewardesses eating dinner in The Golden Dragon, plus a few more characters. The ensemble cast bounces around inside characters like pinballs. The whole production is only a little over an hour and all of the story threads come together almost violently by the ending.
The ensemble—Deanna Myers, Matt Fletcher, David Lawrence Hamilton, Daria Harper and Noah Sullivan—do a really great job of switching characters very quickly and then jumping back into previously established ones. Directors Jonathan L. Green and Marti Lyons also add additional layers to characters by matching actors up with characters outside of their body type. For example, Sullivan who is a tall bearded man portrays one of the stewardesses, while petite Deanna Myers fulfills the role of the stewardesses’ unfeeling boyfriend. The anti-type casting keeps the audience from settling into stereotypes and keeps the ending a shocking revelation.
The set designed by William Boles is very impressive. Jumping between so many settings would seem to require a very complicated set design with lots of scene changes. However, Boles’ set is very open with select areas of the stage that represent an entire environment. For example, one of the sets is a convenient store that is just packed to the ceiling with products. To convey this, the back wall of the set is stacked with shelves of groceries. Boles’ set, however, couldn’t function without the help of John Kelly’s lighting design and Christopher LaPorte’s sound design. All of these production elements work so well together, that it is impossible to imagine the show succeeding without them. The team on The Golden Dragon really works in unison to create something that is grander than any one part.
Sideshow Theatre Company really takes a leap with The Golden Dragon. At first, the story doesn’t seem like it should be a stage production at all. The characters narrate much of the action: their backstory, thoughts, and even their pauses are said out loud. As a visual production, the structure lends itself more to a film than the stage. However, despite these hurdles, Sideshow Theatre Company overcomes them. At times this production becomes a bit dizzying, but they push through and it pays off in the end.
Reviewed by Clare Kosinski
Presented January 18 – February 23 by Sideshow Theatre Company at Victory Gardens’ Richard Christiansen Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago.
Tickets are available by calling 773.871.3000 or by visiting their website www.victorygardens.org.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found at www.theatreinchicago.com.