Review: SOME OTHER KIND OF PERSON

By Toby Zinman

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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