When you are young, anywhere but home sounds better. The idea that in some foreign land you can “make it big” and “make your own life” attracts you. Thus, America being sold as the land of dreams and rag to riches tales is a magnet for hopeful youth who want adventure, but are not fully aware that every journey has rough patches, particularly ones to foreign places. I make this reflective statement because Zhu Yi’s A Deal explores the illusory deals society makes to human beings that cross international waters like, work hard get rewarded or simply trust that life will guide you right. In America, our biggest promises are welcome and opportunities for all, and this play reveals the lie.
When it comes to the U.S., not every immigrant comes here with a tragic background or even a desire to absorb our culture. Instead, A Deal is an exploration of a young woman’s simple dream to “make it” away from home. Directed by John Giampietro, A Deal feels like a series of scenes from a film. From beginning to end, you watch as Wei-Yi Lin’s Su tussle between her love for her family, (Alan Ariano as the hilarious, but easy to anger Mr. Li and Lydia Gaston as the noble, pensive Mrs. Li), and her dream to become the first Asian American, Oscar winning lead actress. Her eagerness to represent her community in the American market leads her to portray a false backstory that groups every single negative stereotype about China. From human rights abuses to government corruption, Su’s lie has truth…. the problem is it is not hers. The irony that to “make it big” in the U.S. she has to act like she lived the smallest life in China does not surpass the audience, but makes it analyze why for people of color a sob story is presented as their key for higher success rather than a simple, happy tale. Why can’t a POC say they lived well, in order to do better? This question pops up in Su and Joshua Haley’s tense, but romantic relationship, of which Seth Moore plays him with a bitter insightfulness. Obviously, Su’s “origin” lies devastate her parents who gave her so much, but Zhu Yi’s riveting writing goes on to question them, as well, in terms of the lies we tell ourselves.
Do you have to lie about your country’s dark history and policies to be a patriot? Do you have to give up your happiness and traditions in your home country for profit and prosperity in another? These question billow through A Deal as you watch Mr. and Mrs. Li, along with Pun Bandhu’s elegant Peter, ponder their perceptions of China and their marked decisions over their future. It is no secret that as you get older, you look back even more to reflect on whether past choices have really led to that “promising future” you were supposed to have. Their scenes together give the play its biggest laughs, along with the various characters of Helen Coxe. Yet, their moments are also the most poignant in showing that it is not as much whether you let go of your country, but if your country lets go of you.
Your nation is like a giant, invisible parent that runs your mind, and makes your choices, even against it, a reflective motivation on how it raised you. Like they say, we marry our husbands in direct contrast or comparison to our fathers, and it goes the same for the nation we are born into and the one we choose to raise ourselves. To Buy Tickets To Zhu Yi’s A Deal Click Here. It is playing at Urban Stages till December 20. Located at 259 West 30th Street (between Seventh and Eighth Avenues)