GENseng's spring production, “Ching Chong Chinaman,” provides its audience with both lighthearted and satirical humor presented through the lives of the members of the Wong family.
“It's razor-sharp humor,” senior Russell Allen said, who plays Ed, patriarch of his ultra-assimilated Asian-American family. “It's so sensational, it might shock people even though it will make them laugh.”
Ed's wife, Grace, played by freshman Jia Sha, is a confused helicopter mother who is stressing about her children no longer needing her and dreaming of another baby.
Freshman Lea Pandoliano plays Desdemona, the perfectly bratty older daughter obsessed with getting into Princeton University while her younger brother, Upton (played by junior Nathan Chau), is too busy playing World of Warcraft to worry about his academics.
When Upton brings Jinqiang, played by sophomore Victor Wang, or 'Ching Chong' into the family's life to do his chores and fulfill his family obligations so he doesn't have to take time away from his game, his family life quickly falls into disarray and hilarity ensues.
Allen's dedication to comfortably delivering Ed's obviously racist comments in a congenial and friendly tone only makes his lines more hysterical.
“This production was really challenging for me because it tackled a subject matter and a sense of humor that I have never encountered before,” Allen said. “I'm not used to doing something so modern and on-point … so shocking.”
Similarly, Pandaliano and Chau are the perfect brother-sister pair, nasty to each other's faces but there for each other when it counts. Pandaliano's overall energy and commitment to Desdemona's bratty personality made her shine despite this being her first major role at Geneseo.
While the liveliness and enthusiasm with which the lead actors and actresses took on their roles was incredible, the supporting cast was not to be outdone. Freshmen Anna Fong, Amy Liang, Christina O. Lu and Eugenie Ma play everything from a Korean orphan to a pregnancy test with unique style and flair and many of the show's funniest moments rest in their capable hands.
The play's biggest draw is undoubtedly comedic power of the script, Director and professor of theatre Randy Kaplan said.
“I read [the show] once and fell out of bed laughing,” she said.
“I just fell in love with it … I think it's hysterical,” Assistant Director senior Joshua Horowitz added. “There's something naturally funny about satirical comedy and it just gets so out of hand and ridiculous.”
The play also has some fun and dramatic dancing.
“We knew right off the bat we wanted to be comedic, so we took an approach to parody old Hollywood,” the play's choreographer junior Kimberly Olsen said of the dance numbers.
Underneath all the comedy, the play delivers a sweet message through the stories of the Wong family members.
“At the end of the day it's about embracing your family and yourself and I think that's a message everyone can benefit from hearing,” Allen said.
“Chinaman” runs 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, May 2 and 3, and 2 p.m. on Saturday May 4 in the Robert E. Sinclair Black Box Theatre.