SMC Troubadour’s production of Asuncion performed for an almost entirely sold out theatre at the Luella Massey Studio. Asuncion (pronounced Ah-sun-sea-on) is a powerful yet hilarious show about stereotypes, cultures, and society’s perceptions of specific ethnic identities.
The cast had phenomenal chemistry and remarkable comedic timing. Edgar (played by James Hyett) is a morally ambiguous character that at times you can sympathize with and at times detest. Regardless of moral compass, Hyett had the audience in the palm of his hand the entire time.
Asuncion (played by Maya Wong) is a Filipino woman who’s married to Stuart (played by Bennet Steinburg). After getting into some trouble, Stuart takes Asuncion to his brother Edgar’s house to hide her. Edgar, who comes across as rather ignorant, instantly concludes that Asuncion must be a prostitute or “sex slave” based on the fact that Stuart needs to hide her and that Asuncion is Filipino. Although Edgar initially opposes the idea of Asuncion staying with them, he’s ultimately overruled by Vinny (played by Kirk Munroe), and Asuncion stays with them until Stuart returns.
At times, the production can come across as mildly offensive. Yet it becomes clear throughout the play that this is ultimately the whole point of the production. Each character is meant to embody a stereotype that is designed to be offensive. The offensiveness, it seems, is supposed to be self-aware, and is supposed to prove a point. It intentionally draws on the flaws within our society and misconceptions we often create regarding others’ cultures and lifestyles.
One particularly interesting component of the production is the way that the venue is reconfigured to be situated where the audience would normally be seated. This particular method worked well for Asuncion, as it created a very naturalistic experience. The one problem with the set-up, however, is that the lighting booth that typically controls lights and sound for the show is facing the audience. This is very problematic for the people in the lighting booth, as they usually need to see the stage in order to receive their cues for lighting and sound effects.
In the first act, the writing falls short, leaving the audience questing where exactly the plot is going. Luckily, this is cleared up in the second act, and is compensated by the actors, whose performances can be credited more to their acting abilities than the writers’ abilities. Munroe’s duality, comedic timing, and stage presence is a joy to watch. There’s great chemistry between characters like Edgar and Vinny along with Vinny and Asuncion. Wong brought stage presence to her role and a strong sense of poise, charm, innocence, and stability.
Overall, the SMC Troubadours production of Asuncion is hilarious and heartfelt, brilliantly directed and cast, and leaves the audience reflecting on the powerful production they just had the pleasure of watching.