Can We Please Have More API Storytelling with API Creatives?

Exotic Deadly or the MSG Play is a raw, in-your-face piece full of truth 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

The cast of Exotic Deadly: Or the MSG Play. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

Honestly, the Globe -in my mind- would be the last place to stage a play like Exotic Deadly. With that said, it makes me happy to see the theatre company truly push its limits as well as boundaries. 

Written by Keiko Green, who recently played the role of Annette Raleigh in Backyard Renaissance's production of the French play God of Carnage,  'Exotic first saw the stage light during the Powers New Voices Festival in 2021. Anna Mikami who is making her professional debut, plays Ami/"Actor 1", a Japanese-American highschooler in 1999 living with her mother or "Actor 4" (Amy Kim Waschke) and brother/ "Actor 3" (Trevor Salter). Ami's uncle decades ago manufactured MSG (Monosodium glutamate). She travels through time to reach her uncle and figure out what happened as well as the root of "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome". In the middle of it all, Ami is a shy teenager that feels is going through life unnoticed. Fighting constantly with her mother who lovingly prepares bento boxes every morning for her school lunch while Ami would rather have a turkey sandwich, she also changes her name to 'Amy' in order to assimilate. A new kid from Japan, Actor 2/Exotic Deadly (Eunice Bae) comes to the school and self-defines as Amy's new best friend boosting a dose of popularity that involves motorcycle rides and boys: Actor 5 (Michelangelo Hyeon) and Actor 6 (James Seol). 

The story is told in a super unique way through video game style movements and great sound effects (Fan Zhang -Sound Design) as well as including a couple of comedic sketches a la Comedy Central's Roast where racism and the diversity quota in theatre are bluntly and amazingly ROASTED with some pretty powerful phrases -Tony award and cocaine offering included-. Amy realizes that the root of the issue comes from misinformation and again, racism; how the unknown becomes something bad and how one misinterpretation or stereotype can keep going life after life, generation after generation until it is practically normalized. Following Amy's mom being in a minor accident, she puts things into perspective, realizes the faults, and goes back to being Ami.

Trevor Salter and Anna Mikami . Photo by Rich Soublet II.
The cast and their undeniable talent are an absolute treat. Each actor had sass and comedic ability that came throughout the play but was stellar in certain sequences like a brief ballet stroll performed by Amy Kim Waschke that was amazing and received loud praise, The late 90s, early 2000´s music video/ heartthrob introductions with Michelangelo Hyeon and James Seol and why not, a karaoke/disco sequence with Anna Mikami and Eunice Bae topped with a dance choreo by Trevor Salter.

Director Jesca Prudencio grasped the task and ran with it to bring Keiko's majestic writing to the stage. The way reality is tackled and graciously exposed is intelligent and fast within 90 minutes without intermission. Yu Shibagaki's scenic design for The Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the round, interestingly is designed with vivid squares that totally bring you to a video game setting as well as implementing moving carts where actors are whisked in and away adding momentum combined with Cha See's lighting design that makes each scene pop! Bravo to the stagehands who make each scene happen in time and form. 

As this play puts MSG into context, it made me think of a Mexican saying, one that my grandmother used to say a lot "Ven la paja en el ojo ajeno" where MSG in potato chips, Doritos, Cheetos, you name it, which are HUGE in the US and were kind of overseen...let us not even get into school cafeteria menus and yet, when it came to Chinese food it is automatically bad right?... Exotic Deadly or the MSG Play puts powerful analogies on the table to continue an important and vital conversation to push a thriving society forward. There is a wonderful article by Sonia Desai in the Performances Magazine program titled "Let's Talk About MSG" with great facts. 

Credit where credit is due. Bravo to The Old Globe for staging this great piece in the 21st century with 21st-century theatre. And can we please have more API storytelling with API creatives? *snap*.

Go see this show and be a part of the conversation. Currently playing until May 7. For performance times and ticket prices, click here

P.S. Also giving a shout-out to Tori Rice and Mabelle Reynoso, hosts of the podcast Hey Playwright which features an interview with Keiko in their latest episode. 

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