NY1 Theater Review: "Outside People"
"Outside People" is a new Off-Broadway work currently being co-produced by The Naked Angels Theater Company and The Vineyard Theater. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
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Broadway has "Chinglish," and Off-Broadway now has "Outside People." The two plays make a fine matched pair offering variations on a timely issue: the great divide between this country and China.
It's not the 7,000 miles separating us that makes everything seem so foreign. It's the vast cultural gulf that causes the most havoc. The language, the values, practically all communication can be so easily misread. It makes for great comedy fodder, which was so pronounced in David Henry Hwang's "Chinglish."
Zayd Dohrn's "Outside People" is also funny but this tightly written dramedy has a somewhat more serious bent. And while not quite as dramatically satisfying, the excellent co-production from the Vineyard Theatre and Naked Angels merits a visit, even if you've seen "Chinglish."
Set in present-day Beijing, the obvious outsider is Malcolm, an American invited by Da-Wei, his former Stanford classmate, to work with him. It becomes clear that all four of the characters in this play are "outside people" in one way or another.
Da Wei, who calls himself "David," is in some respects more American than Malcolm and he has some real identity issues. His girlfriend, the daughter of an African diplomat, isn't quite sure where she belongs. And Xiao Mei, with whom Malcolm falls in love, just wants a better life.
Evan Cabnet's slick direction keeps everything moving at an engaging clip. I also found the profanity-laced Chinese rap music an inspired touch.
The ensemble — Matt Dellapina, Li Jun Li, Nelson Lee and Sonequa Martin-Green — does a fine job of translating Dohrn's nuanced writing to the stage.
The 90-minute drama covers a lot of ground dashing stereotypes, and in some cases reinforcing them. "Outside People" skews younger than "Chinglish" but it speaks just as clearly about the matters that unite us as well as those that keep us apart.