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Aziatik Nation '04

This series of sketches-some satirical, some serious-explore notions of post-9/11 rage and despair through the prism of Asian-American society. This should make for fecund, exciting subject matter, but, sadly, writer/director Philip W. Chung is unable to find anything new or especially provocative to say about the things that matter to him and his five-person ensemble. The show ultimately comes across as little more than knee-jerk agitprop that has already been dated by the events of the recent election.

The show's most moving moments are those that mention issues that are fairly specific to the Asian-American community. For instance, there's a powerful sketch exploring the gulf between first generation Asian-American immigrants and their totally assimilated "All-American Asian" children: A hardworking, old-world Noodle House owner from the Philippines (Nechelle Fabiana) is genuinely baffled when her football-loving, rock music-singing son (Leonard Wu) registers for Army service in Iraq.

The show also includes vignettes that show precisely how Asian-Americans were affected by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. A scene in which an actor (Fabiana, again) reads, in deadpan, the transcript of the call the American Airlines Flight 11 flight attendant made to inform air traffic controllers that her plane had been kidnapped is exceedingly powerful.

Ultimately, though, the show feels like an uninspired trawl over terrain that has been traversed with more intellectual vigor and energy in films such as Fahrenheit 9/11. The arguments about the perfidy of Republicans and of conservatives in general are shrill and one-sided: If they were as obvious as Chung seems to suggest, there would be no "red state" president in the White House. To make matters worse, Chung's satire is heavy-handed, and his sense of comic timing is maladroit to the point of being jarring. There is a fascinating political revue to be made on the topic of Asian-American politics, but this tepidly involving, flimsy material isn't it. Performances are for the most part self-conscious and stolid, though Fabiana's despairing Old-World mother is touching.

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