Written and performed by Michelle Glick
Christine Renee Miller
The Dorothy Strelsin Theater
In the autobiographical one-woman show — presented as part of the 11th Annual Midtown International Theatre Festival — actress/writer Michelle Glick recounts her experiences growing up in Alabama as a first-generation Vietnamese-American who simply wants to be the perfect Southern Belle. The only problem is that she looks nothing like the other belles.
Sweet and uncluttered in its message and storyline, has Glick showcasing an assortment of characters that she has encountered throughout her journey of self-denial and self-discovery on the Strelsin stage — a locale that, while minute, proves complimentary under the wonderful direction of Christine Renee Miller. The characters Glick portrays include everyone from her mom (a Vietnamese war bride) to a Bible School teacher who takes it upon herself to give Glick’s brother a more Americanized name because it’s “easier to say,” as well as a bad-mannered store clerk who assumes that Glick doesn’t speak English because she is Asian. The productiontakes no shortcuts. It brings a variety of Asian stereotypes and misconceptions to the forefront unapologetically, while expanding a hackneyed but essential dialogue about the archetypal plight of assimilation. Yet even with earnest instances like this, humor isn’t too far behind; it is a lovely mix of cultural edification and comedy.
Glick, who floods the stage with great charisma, proves to be a magnetic storyteller, delivering her narrative with the kind of authenticity that holds one’s interest throughout. One of the more exciting scenes has Glick portraying her mother, who owns a nail salon in town. Here, her mom discloses an absorbing life story (not devoid of wit of course), meanwhile shouting at her young son to turn down the music in the shop, which is ironically tuned to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” as she’s gossiping about her ex-husband who left her for a black woman with a thing for wigs. She also expresses concern for Glick, who at this point in the story has left Alabama for New York. The hysterical nail-salon discourse, which could have been an encore, takes place while Glick’s mom is giving an unseen client a manicure. The subtle, yet evidently well-thought-out presentation of this particular scene is not only smart, but wickedly comical.
That said, there’s something special about this script and the production as a whole. Though it focuses on Glick’s unique experiences as an Asian-American, it represents every immigrant’s quandary: the desire to fit in while trying to uphold one’s own cultural traditions. But unlike race, which acts as a barrier, dividing Glick from her peers as a child, the undertone of is uniting — significant to anyone trying to find their place in a world that is often not very kind to the outsider.