Discrimination of Asian Americans examined in authentic, well-developed performance

The Geneseo Department of of Theater and Dance presented “Carry the Tiger to the Mountain” on Nov. 8 to Sunday Nov. 12 in the Alice Austin Theatre. The play follows the real stories of Chinese immigrants and the alienation they face as Chinese Americans. Pictured above on the left is Michelle Cooman ‘17--who played Fa Mulan--and childhood special education major senior Jack Swanger, who played Donald Evans. (Courtesy of Ben Gajewski)

Geneseo has put on thought-provoking and socially relevant musical and drama pieces many times before, and this past week was no different. 

The Geneseo Department of Theater and Dance and GENseng presented “Carry the Tiger to the Mountain” written by Cherylene Lee and directed by professor of theater Randy Kaplan from Nov. 8 to Sunday Nov. 12 in the Alice Austin Theatre.

“Carry the Tiger to the Mountain” is set from 1982 to 1986, and tells the true story of Chinese immigrants Lily Chin—played by psychology major sophomore Kea Corey—Davin Chin—played by geography major senior Jimmy Feng—and their son Vincent—portrayed by mathematics major junior Wilson Tan—as they try to pursue the American dream. Lily works at a hairbrush factory and does her best to please her husband and Vincent, who is obsessed with buying a car and creating an independent life for himself. 

During the play, Lily is forced to endure the loss of her son Vincent, who dies as a terrible consequence of a racially fueled bar fight. In doing so, Lily must revaluate her whole life in the United States, and face the dark reality of racism and hypocrisy present in the U.S. criminal justice system. 

Lee wrote the play in 1997 and took great care to incorporate many aspects of Chinese culture, such as tai chi, into the plot in ways that show their value to Lily as well as strengthen her sense of identity. 

The play also does an excellent job at portraying challenges faced by Asian Americans, from the clash between Lily’s more traditional values and the contemporary values held by Vincent and his girlfriend Patti Lin—played communication major junior Arisa Tanai—to the prejudice and violence Vincent faces. 

“Carry the Tiger to the Mountain” managed to elicit very strong emotional reactions from audience members due to its poignant portrayal of the negative results of prejudice. 

“I found “Carry the Tiger to the Mountain” to be an interesting take on the immigrant experience and found it to be a vivid portrayal of the hardships faced by Asian Americans due to prejudice,” biology major junior Kyle Grolz said. 

A well-written play would be lackluster if poorly executed, but luckily the cast and crew did an incredible job bringing Lee’s script to life. Everyone delivered amazing performances. In particular, Feng and political science and musical theater major senior Aram Peers, who played a car salesman and bouncer respectively, both did well portraying more comedic roles that helped bring much needed moments of respite during the overall serious plot. Additionally, Corey and Tan also gave incredibly moving performances that breathed life into the complex bond between Lily and Vincent, and made for some emotional moments. 

The production team also deserves praise for their successful efforts at bringing the 1980s work to life. The wardrobe, from the faded Led Zeppelin t-shirt of the bouncer to the flashy dresses worn by the car girls—portrayed by biology and theater double major junior Leeann Bruetsch and musical theater major freshman Sandra Kralik—captured the audience in the setting. 

Furthermore, the segments involving the car salesman’s advertisements dispersed throughout the first act featured vintage choreography and older hits like KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Get Down Tonight,” immersed the audience in the 1980s period. 

This combination of excellent writing, production and acting made for a very entertaining and well-received play. 

“Carry the Tiger to the Mountain” was a well-executed production that had a profound message about discrimination of races and the American dream. In a world where stories about violence and prejudice are at the media’s forefront, it is fascinating to see such themes explored in a truly intimate narrative.