The Firehall Arts Centre

Banana Boys
By Leon Aureus, from the novel by Terry Woo
Directed by Jack Paterson

Dates 23 February – 17 March, 2007 Venue Firehall Arts Centre Reviewer Jane Penistan

What or who are Banana Boys? In this context they are Canadian-born Chinese - yellow on the outside, white on the inside. This play examines the problems of five present day young men who grow up as Chinese Canadians in a predominantly WASP Canadian city.

The play is initially somewhat confusing but once this is realized, all becomes clear and very funny. Rick (Victor Mariano) the go-getting, egotistic, drug-taking, ambitious and hard driving member of the group of five university friends is dead. There he is at the opening of the play with a knife in his heart. Mike, a medical student turned author (Simon Hayama), must tell the story of what it’s like to be Canadians who still find themselves to be of the community but not fully integrated.

“The five young men we follow run the gamut of the Asian-Canadian experience: are Rick: the ultra ambitious B.Com ‘player’; Sheldon: the hopeless romantic engineer; Luke: the club crawling psych major; Dave: the cynical woman-hating computer science student and Mike: the pre-med hopeful who wants to be a writer.”

Dave (Rick Tae) feels that the world is against him and is ever ready to blow his top at the least provocation. However during the action of the play he has some delightful scenes. Re-enacting with this mates a spoof on American soldiers being bombarded in a foxhole, between gunshots, he demonstrates, by use of a Venn diagram sketched in the dust, the relationships of Asian boys and white boys and Asian girls and white girls. He also enjoys himself as a seductive and very provocative lady of the streets, as does Vincent Tong, who also plays Luke. Luke tends to let things roll by. He has given up on trying to change the status quo and lets life happen around him.

Bespectacled, unworldly, somewhat bewildered Sheldon (Parnelli Parnes) has trouble trying to acquire a girlfriend. His is a lovely presentation of an unsophisticated young man suddenly landed in the company of more mature companions, and trying to keep up with them.

This script is full of sharp and wicked jokes, all delivered with impeccable timing and enjoyment. Some of this humour is lost on the wasps, but much appreciated by the Asians in the audience. The well thought-out characterization, ensemble acting from all the cast and perceptive direction by Jack Paterson, make this a most polished performance which moves smoothly against the very pleasing set. The lighting adds much to the atmosphere and the variety of the scenes.

Beneath all the fun and games, conflict and surprise, there is underlying social comment. The presentation makes this production a most enjoyable entertainment with some food for thought to take home. A trip to the Firehall is highly recommended.

© 2007 Jane Penistan