Freelance writer and blogger from Sydney (ex-Melbourne). Avid foodie and traveller. Loves dogs.
It's not often that you come across a play in Sydney with a predominantly Asian cast — and as a Chinese-born Australia growing up in Melbourne, I was drawn to this play for that reason.
Written by New York-based playwright and screenwriter Zhu Yi and directed by Sydney-based theatre producer Shiya Lu, A DEAL is a dark comedy about a young actress from China called Li Su (played by Katherine Nheu). Li Su wants to make it big as an actress, so she moves to New York to study the arts at Columbia University. She struggles to get roles in productions, so she decides to brand herself as an orphan and human rights victim to land a lead role in a major Broadway production.
Meanwhile, her Shanghai-based parents pay her a visit and smuggle one million dollars in cash to buy her an apartment in Manhattan. The play deals with the issues faced by immigrants like Li Su as they seek to find acceptance in a new country and prove that they can be a success. More importantly, it explores the clash between the traditional values of Chinese parents and their new world offspring. As a child of first-wave immigrant parents from Asia, I empathise with some of the struggles that Li Su dealt with in this two-hour production from the pressures of having to do well career-wise for the sake of keeping face to the expectations of being an obedient daughter who has to somehow repay her parents for their support rather than live life the way she wants to.
Vivacious and bubbly, Nheu is engaging and likeable as the protagonist Su while theatre veteran Simon Lee portrays a very grounded Simon Lee, the playwright of the show. However, it's Shi-Kai Zhang who steals the show as Su's fiercely proud Communist party member father.
Despite the slow pacings of some scenes, including the one where Su locks herself into the bathroom halfway through the second act, A DEAL is an intellectually engaging and thought-provoking play that's well worth seeing.
32 full | $27 concession | $22 cheap Wed & previews The Deal is showing until 31 August 2019. Wednesday - Friday 7:30pm, Saturday 3pm and 7:30pm, Sunday 5pm.