Asian culture explored in Cowboy v. Samurai

"I'm an isle of yellow in a sea of white," Chester shouts to Travis meaningfully, introducing a significant theme of GENseng's latest production, "Cowboy v. Samurai," written by Michael Golamco.

Chester, a young Asian man raised in parochial Wyoming town, and Travis, a Korean English teacher trying to escape his past life in Los Angeles, are played by sophomore Derek Weng and freshman David Sin, respectively. The play, an Asian American romantic comedy, is an adaption of the classic "Cyrano de Bergerac."

The "cowboy," Del - played by Geneseo alumnus Chris LaBanca - along with half the town, is trying to woo the new Korean biology teacher Veronica, played by sophomore Liz Cho.

"Cowboy v. Samurai" features a wide spectrum of complex characters. Chester, for example, is a militant Asian man who prays to Bruce Lee and, according to Veronica who catches him sneaking into the school at night, dresses, "like a ninja!"

Del, meanwhile, is the stereotypical small-town cowboy whose biggest quirk is his constant use of the word "dumb" as a noun.

Travis and Veronica, though, present the most complex personalities to the audience. The two individuals face both internal and external conflicts as the romantic comedy progresses, sometimes delving into heavy issues like sex and drugs. Both respond to their problems with a dark sarcasm that adds depth to the play.

The story considers many challenges faced by Asian Americans in today's society. For example, while Weng explained how "interracial dating is something that a lot of Asian Americans" face in today's society, Cho added that it was "interesting to play the modern Asian American woman."

"There is nothing like this in Buffalo," said LaBanca, who performed in GENseng's "Sam I Am" his sophomore year during his time here at Geneseo. "Every GENseng production I have been a part of has been fun." LaBanca is currently director of drama at SUNY Alfred and a professional actor in Buffalo.

GENseng will have its 10th anniversary this fall and is the only Asian American student ensemble of its kind at Geneseo. Randy Kaplan, associate professor and founder of GENseng, chose and directed the play. "[Golamco was] the youngest playwright we've ever had," she said.

Golamco authored the play at age 27. "Cowboy v. Samurai," which is only five years old, has already seen eight productions - a situation which, according to Kaplan, is unheard of. The play is expected to be performed in Asia soon as well.

"Cowboy v. Samurai" will be performed April 30 at 7 p.m., May 1 at 4 p.m. and May 2 at 2 p.m. in the Robert Sinclair Theatre in Brodie Hall. Admission is $6 and tickets are available at the Brodie Box Office or at