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'Dragon' Lacks Power, Freshness

October 23, 1998|JANA J. MONJI

In a town that only recently recovered from Nomo fever, Eric Michael Zee's performance piece "Exit the Dragon," at the David Henry Hwang Theater, seems dated.

Although this piece confronts the identity and work problems of three Chinese American actors (Zee, Kipp Shiotani, Tuan Tran), it contends that Asian American men all fall under the shadow of Bruce Lee, and America offers no heroes with Asian faces. It's time to leave Lee's image behind and "exit the dragon."

The show has been on a national college tour, aiming to appeal to twentysomethings, yet some of the cultural references might matter more to a slightly older generation.

As writer, Zee's work doesn't have the potency and lyrical quality of some of the pieces from other Asian American performance groups. Zee covers some of the same ground, but not as well. Zee's piece has its funny moments, but these are overwhelmed by the whiny, indulgent and sometimes sanctimonious parts.

Directors Jeff Liu and Zee could tighten up the piece and make some transitions more fluid. They could also work on moments of painfully wooden acting and balance out the appeal of the three characters. Shiotani's brash, pro-Asian character is by far the most appealing, making one wonder why we must listen to the other two.

*

* "Exit the Dragon," David Henry Hwang Theater, Union Center for the Arts, 210 N. Judge John Aiso St., Little Tokyo. Today, Saturday only, 8 p.m. $15. (213) 625-7000. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

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