I highly recommend all you folks in Seattle and its nearby vicinities to check out this production of Ching Chong Chinaman at the Richard Hugo House, running from March 26 to April 24. I won two tickets to watch this play, written by San Francisco native Lauren Yee, back in 2008. At first, I was a little bit leery about going to see a play with the words “ching chong” in the title, but through satire and mockery, Ching Chong Chinaman left me with more than a few thoughts about Asian American culture and identity.
[Warning: Spoiler Alert after the cut!]
From the generic description on the flyer that came with my tickets, I originally wondered why the characters were described as an “Asian American” family rather than with a more specific ethnic modifier. I asked myself why the family wasn’t described as a Chinese or Chinese American family. We find out at the conclusion of the play that the teenage characters, Desdemona and Upton, are not ethnically Chinese like their parents, but adopted from Korea and Japan. Desdemona’s journey throughout the production to get closer to her Chinese heritage makes this reveal even more dramatic and surprising. Although I haven’t really heard much about transracial (or transcultural?) adoption of Asian children by Asian parents, it certainly made me consider the process as more than an issue with Caucasian Americans adopting children of color.
Set against a comedic backdrop involving an indentured Chinese servant, American Idol-esque aspirations, and family issues, the complexities of identity and culture in the plot make the audience think about these ongoing issues. The play is funny and smart, so I would definitely give this production a couple hours of your time.