Sunday, May 24, 2015

Review: SOME OTHER KIND OF PERSON

By Toby Zinman

Review: SOME OTHER KIND OF PERSON

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For the Inquirer

Global outsourcing, labor arbitrage, the HR of international economics: all important and controversial topics. Unfortunately, Some Other Kind of Person has little or nothing to say about any of them except the clichés that stopped being funny years ago; Eric Pfeffinger’s flat farce traffics mostly in contempt.

Here’s the set-up: Bill, a rumpled American (David Ingram), incompetent with people but great with numbers, has come to Cambodia on business with his crass colleague Lakshmi ( the excellent speed-talker Nandita Shenoy) who invents endless stories about her tragic childhood in rural India.

Through a trite mixup, a man at his hotel (concierge? What concierge?) sends Bill to a brothel, since many men go to Cambodia for the “sex tours” with very young prostitutes.

Bill’s first moments in this place establish him as implausibly stupid but basically kind. The manipulative madame (the terrific Bi Jean Ngo whose hand gestures and walk are almost worth sitting through this play) invents endless stories about her tragic childhood under the Khmer Rouge. She chooses a girl (Victoria Chau) for him, and Bill decides to rescue her from this dreadful life by buying her.  

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, there is a desperate American woman (Brenny Rabine) waiting to adopt/buy a Cambodian baby and is caught in a very expensive bureaucratic scam.  You can see where this is going, right?

The compulsion to Do  A Good Deed, to look like a Hero in your own eyes, to Be Generous is Pfeffinger’s easy condemnation of simpleminded Americans. But the calculating cruelty of the Others is equally condemned, although the Cambodians are certainly smarter than the rich Americans they exploit.

The characters are not developed, the plot never takes a turn, and, most problematic, nobody has made a decision about how to play the girl. That  human beings are merchandise for sale is at the center of the plot, but she is played merely as a silent blank.  And in order for us (and Bill) to be suitably shocked, she should look twelve, but Chau is obviously twenty-ish. 

Paul Meshejian directs with a very heavy hand; the acting is (intentionally?) cartoonish. The attempts at irony, which might lend some intelligence to the political satire, are merely blatant jabs. Best line of the night: “We think that Cambodia can be the next India—with different food” is the height of the show’s wit.  

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InterAct Theatre Company at the Adrienne,  2030 Sansom St. Through June 23. Tickets $20-37. Information: 215-568-8079, or www.interacttheatre.org.

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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