Following is the link to the January 26, 2009 review of Young Jean Lee’s play The Shipment in The New Yorker.
By the Skin of Our Teeth
Young Jean Lee’s irreverent take on racial politics.
by Hilton Als
One generally hesitates before identifying a new trend in the American theatre, largely because language has a tendency to fix and limit the joy one feels at witnessing the stops and starts, the moments of grace, and the moments of awkwardness in the work of a fledgling director, performer, or playwright. One senses, however, that the thirty-four-year-old playwright and director Young Jean Lee wouldn’t be content with inchoate praise for her work—work that is both explicitly political in content and often mundane in tone. Like her contemporaries the up-and-coming playwrights David Adjmi and Thomas Bradshaw (Bradshaw performed in one of Lee’s early pieces), Lee is a facetious provocateur; that is, she does whatever she can to get under our skin—with laughs and with raw, brutal talk that at times feels gratuitous, and is meant to.
Beneath the surface, Lee seems to say in her work, most people are cauldrons of awfulness. Political correctness is a front—and, by now, a tattered one. Any talk of race in our post-“Raisin in the Sun” world seems like a tired joke. In a 2007 interview in American Theatre, Lee said of her 2005 play, “Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven”—a powerful, humorous, and startling work about the author’s violence toward herself and, subsequently, toward her female Asian characters—“For this project, I decided the worst thing I could possibly do was to make an Asian-American identity-politics show, because it can be a very formulaic, very clichéd genre, and very assimilated into white American culture. It’s almost become part of the dominant white power structure to have identity-politics plays about how screwed-over minorities are. It’s such a familiar, soothing pattern. . . . It’s become the status quo.”
YOUNG JEAN LEE'S THEATER COMPANY
The scheduled run is completely sold out, so four performances have been added:
Wednesday – Saturday
January 28 – 31 @8PM
TICKETS ALREADY GOING FAST!
“Lee confirms herself as one of the best experimental playwrights in America. Her language manages to be both feverishly strange and rigorously intellectual, and she directs her charismatic, talented cast with economy and theatrical dash.”
-David Cote, Time Out New York
“Sometimes sly and subtle, sometimes as
blunt as a poke in the eye . . . Combing through the images of African-Americans that dominate the media, Ms. Lee wields sharp, offbeat humor to point up the clichés, distortions and absurdities.”
-Charles Isherwood, NY Times
The Kitchen presents the NYC Premiere of
Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company
Written and directed by Young Jean Lee
Featuring: Mikeah Earnest Jennings, Okieriete Onaodowan, Prentice Onayemi, Douglas Scott Streater, and Amelia Workman
With: Foteos Macrides and Joseph John
Producer: Caleb Hammons
Associate Director: Lee Sunday Evans
Sets: David Evans Morris | Costumes: Roxana Ramseur
Lights: Mark Barton | Sound: Matt Tierney
Choreography: Faye Driscoll
Stage Manager: Teddy Nicholas
Assistant Director: Georgia X. Lifsher
January 8-10 (Thursday–Saturday), and 14-17, 21-24, 28 – 31
(Wednesday–Saturday), 8pm, January 10 (Saturday), 3pm
Known for her provocatively satiric performance works, writer/director Young Jean Lee presents the New York premiere of THE SHIPMENT. For this piece, Lee gave herself the most uncomfortable challenge she could imagine: to make—as a Korean-American—a Black American identity politics work. In collaboration with an all-black cast, Lee takes the audience on an awkward and volatile roller-coaster ride through the absurdities and atrocities that arise when trying to discuss the black experience in America. Ludicrous, honest, and devoid of truisms, THE SHIPMENT dares to ask embarrassing questions and to seek solutions to impossible problems.
THE SHIPMENT is also made possible in part by a grant from the Ford Foundation and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Ensemble Theatre Collaborations Grant Program.
(Work by Young Jean Lee is included in the Applause books One on One: The Best Men’s Monologues for the 21st Century and the upcoming Duo!: The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century.)