Theater Mu’s new season kicks off with Leah Nanako Winkler’s Two Mile Hollow in collaboration with Mixed Blood Theatre, and since I saw it opening night, I’ve told countless people that it’s one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. Of the five Asian American performers, four play members of a well-to-do white family, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported into a satirical soap opera.
Blythe (Sun Mee Chomet) is the pill popping mother to insecure Mary (Kathryn Fumie), and stepmother to sibling rivals Joshua (Sherwin Resurreccion) and Christopher (Eric Sharp). They’re coming together one last time at Two Mile Hollow before selling the estate, as Blythe’s husband / Joshua and Christopher’s father has passed away.
Two Mile Hollow aims to turn the tables on the white washing that happens in entertainment, as well as serve as a response to “white people by the water” plays. Leah Nanako Winkler explains more in depth in this interview and I’d encourage you to take a hard look at shows you’ve seen. How many involve white people in some kind of home setting talking about their problems? It may be more than you realize. Instead, we need stories like this that more closely examine the lives of Asian Americans and aren’t MISS SAIGON OMG JUST STOP PRODUCING IT ALREADY.
I quickly lost count of the number of things I laughed at – from the family expressing their #whitepeopleproblems, to jokes that dragged on for nearly too long, to Joshua’s random outbursts and wacky vocabulary, to Mary and Blythe’s borderline incestuous infatuation with Christopher. My friends from Cherry and Spoon and Compendium can tell you more about the humor in the show, as every review I’ve read makes it clear that you’ll laugh from start to finish.
Despite all of the humor, there’s an underlying darkness a la Get Out when the show’s focus turns to Charlotte (Meghan Kreidler), the only actual Asian American character in the play. While she’s introduced as Christopher’s personal assistant, the family makes it clear how they actually see her, at various times referring to her as a maid, a servant, and “the help.” Barf.
During a conversation between Charlotte and Joshua, an undertone creeps in about how she’s expected to act versus how the family acts. She aspires to make it big in the entertainment industry which is why she’s working for Christopher. Her ideas are outside the box, but Joshua encourages her to walk the straight and narrow and not think too extravagantly. It’s subtle, but this hints at the idea that Asian Americans are expected to be the model minority and not stir the pot, while it’s typically more acceptable people with Joshua’s socioeconomic status to to more outwardly express their individuality.
A show that’s this ridiculous has to be performed by artists of color, or the family’s privilege would feel too real despite the satire. And what fun it must be to play these over-the-top roles… but also empowering to make a mockery of works that try to white wash us.
While it may be easy to feel pity for Charlotte, Kreidler is fortunate to embody this character among the comfort of those who fully understand this role and support her in a way many couldn’t. If the other artists were white, I feel like performing this role would feel oppressive (and it likely does regardless), but the all-Asian American cast serves well to elevate her.
A huge part of this support system is director Randy Reyes whose amazing vision will keep you wondering what crazy thing will happen next. There’s a lot going on in this play, so directing it could not have been an easy feat.
Is there a glass ceiling over Charlotte’s privilege, and does it max out with her association to these rich white people? We can hope that by the end she finds the right answer and figures out how to come into her own.
Don’t miss out on Two Mile Hollow at Mixed Blood Theatre which runs through March 4. Tickets are available on a sliding scale starting at $5. Perhaps even consider a subscription to Theater Mu’s full season titled Through HER Eyes which “features three female Asian American playwrights, three world premieres, one regional premiere, and a diverse showing of female protagonists.”