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THEATER BEAT

'Kimchee, Chitlins' Leaves a Mixed Taste

July 29, 1994|SCOTT COLLINS

Fighting the inner "bogeyman" of racism is the subject of "Kimchee and Chitlins," at West Coast Ensemble in Hollywood.

As the title suggests, Elizabeth Wong's play explores the frayed relations between African Americans and Asian immigrants. The heroine is Suzie Seeto (Julia Nickson), a Chinese American TV reporter who struggles with issues of fairness and racial identity while covering a long-simmering dispute between Korean merchants and black residents.

Wong has chosen to dramatize this tale in a highly stylized, story-theater format. As a result, the characters often narrate the story directly to the audience or act out abbreviated or symbolic scenes. Accordingly, Suzie is joined by black and Korean choruses (Nyra Crenshaw, Larry Gamell Jr. and Kevin E. Jones and Allison Sie, Benjamin Lum and Eddie Mui).

Claudia Jaffee's briskly mounted production showcases both the virtues and flaws of this approach. "Kimchee" very effectively outlines the complicated web of resentment between the two groups. Yet dramatically the show dulls its own impact through repetition and unfocused conflict between two or more sharply drawn characters.

* "Kimchee and Chitlins," West Coast Ensemble, 6240 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays 3 p.m. $15. (213) 871-0502. Ends Sept. 4. Running time: 1 hour and 55 minutes.

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