Mixie and the Halfbreeds by Adrienne Wong and Julie Tamiko Manning

Dates and Venue 18 - 28 June 2009, Wed – Sat 8pm (Matinees Sat 20 June & Sun 28 June at 2pm) | The VanCity Culture Lab, 1895 Venables

Director Maiko Bae Yamamoto Costume Designer Barbara Clayden Lighting Designer Jonathan Ryder Sound Designer Joelysa Pankanea Stage Manager Danielle Fecko

Reviewer John Jane

Mixie and the Halfbreeds is not the name of a female rock band, but is actually the title of a new non-linear, irreverent play by Adrienne Wong and Julie Tamiko Manning. Part comedy revue and part allegoric tale, the play pokes fun at their own racial hybridity as well as attempting to deal with the more complex question of social isolation as a result of multi-ethnic identity.

The storyline itself bears little focus on verisimilitude, but rather deconstructs the North-American obsession with classifying people into neat ethnic categories. Co-creators Wong and Manning play Trixie and Mixie respectively, two mixed-race women who happen to live in the same building. In handling their alienation, they appear to go in opposite directions. Wong (Trixie) is branded as a ‘banana’ (yellow outside, white inside) and initially appears more successful by endeavouring to completely assimilate; even to the extent of dying her hair blonde. Manning (Mixie) is branded as an egg (white outside, yellow inside) who avoids assimilation to the point of paranoia.

For a show that was originally intended for serialized radio, Mixie and the Halfbreeds is certainly visually gratifying. Both Wong and Manning have a compelling stage presence. Their non-stop switching between the cartoonish plaid tailcoats and Barbara Clayden’s more stylish clothing keep the audience piqued. The seven flaxen-thatched cuties collectively labeled “The Blonde Forest” who aside from functioning as scene-shifters, provide a surreal vision of disaffection.

Director Maiko Bae Yamamoto, who is also bi-racial, takes on the gargantuan task of guiding the excesses of the principal performers who are conjointly the production’s creative force. The comedy revue segments appear to be generally ad-libbed. The audience is invited, even expected to participate in games like “Who expresses disapproval.” In this routine, Manning reels off facetious multi-ethnic terms such as Cablinasian, Eurasian and mulatto while asking the audience to raise their hands if offended.

Barbara Clayden’s set is appropriately minimalist essentially consisting of five movable three-by-one metre vertical white panels that change the surface hue with Jonathan Ryder’s effective lighting.

The East Vancouver Cultural Centre is said to be situated on “unseated land” so, before the play commenced, Musqueam elder Mr Larry Grant was called upon to offer a welcoming prayer that was given in the Salish dialect. This may have provided the most contemplative part of the show.

© 2009 John Jane