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A twelve-year-old's auditioning experience leads to a winding path of disappointment, confusion, and finally self-discovery
Scrooge is not the only one bitter about Christmas this holiday season as Sandra Tsing Loh presents her one-woman show, "Sugar Plum Fairy," at the Geffen Playhouse from November 11 to December 21.
Appearing on stage dressed as a life-size Christmas tree, the atmosphere at first is a pleasant one as Loh describes all the happy things about Christmas. But things take an unexpected turn as she slowly peels away the costume to reveal a forty-something-year-old woman dressed in a black leotard and wraparound skirt, reminiscent of a once-graceful ballerina if not for the chunky socks and tennis shoes.
She then bitterly declares that "Christmas is the lousy thing that happens to you over and over again." Audiences soon learn the root of her bitterness as Loh begins to recount her disappointing twelve-year-old experience of auditioning for the coveted role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in her elementary school's production of "The Nutcracker." It is an experience that opens her eyes to her own limitations in both talent and physical appearance.
Born of a Chinese father and a German mother, Loh gives insights on how it was like to be an Asian American growing up in the San Fernando Valley during the 60s and 70s. With the aide of a slide projector, Loh gives the audience a virtual tour of her suburban home located in a neighborhood that was "decorated by recent immigrants." From the outside, it looks like any normal home, but inside lurks an all-too embarrassing décor ensemble ?everything from lawn elves occupying the otherwise empty fireplace to a lonely pencil adorning the center of the ceiling.
With exaggerated movements and animated facial expressions, Loh gives an energetic, humorous performance that makes everyone remember their own pivotal moment in life. She is uninhibited, blunt, and honest as she effortlessly recalls the details of her childhood experience as though it was happening for the first time. Even though it's a one-woman show, Loh's vivid impersonations of everyone from her heavily-accented German mother, to the two witch-like Russian ballerina instructors, and her ballet-obsessed older sister makes it seem as though there was an all-out cast.
Particularly humorous was when unaware of her limitations, Loh is in utter disbelief when she finds out that not only did she not get the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, but she is relegated to the "Waltz of the Flowers" dance. It's not the best, but it's still good right? That is what the audience thinks until Loh whips out a chalkboard outlining "The Nutcracker" hierarchy where the waltz is located at the very bottom—a place Loh deems as the haven for the reject ballerinas.
But her problems don't end with the auditions as she soon learns that she may be "fat"—a problem that deserves its very own title of "Tragedy Strikes at Age 12." Plagued by her relatives' comment that she "has good legs…an empire could stand on," she becomes conscious of her 143 pounds. As she contemplates her weight, she continues to indulge herself in a larger-than life size bag of Fritos that would inevitably lead her on the path of becoming a "bovine quasimoto." It is then that she realizes her childhood sucks.
Even though the performance is an autobiographical account, Loh manages to tackle a myriad of issues that all of us can relate to, such as sibling rivalry, prepubescent sexual interest, problems with weight, identity crises, and overall confusion.
Still plagued with the trauma of the Sugar Plum Fairy experience, Loh continues to be resentful of Christmas into her college years. But this is also a point of discovery as she learns to find her own identity and to come to terms with her childhood. Sitting there alone in the cold confines of her bachelorette apartment sipping Trader Joe's $1.99 wine and sifting through old pictures from a shoebox, Loh has an epiphany and realizes that "I miss my childhood." Despite all the frustration and anguish, childhood is an experience to be cherished, and now the mother of two, Loh wishes to share "The Nutcracker" experience with her children.
Directed by David Schweizer, "Sugar Plum Fairy" first premiered at the Seattle Repertory Theater in December 2002.
To book tickets or to get more information, please visit www.geffenplayhouse.com.
Date Posted: 12/12/2003