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Theatre review: Women Of Asia stumbles on stereotypes

Published on Jun 20, 2014 11:08 AM

The women of Asia are an incredibly complex tapestry; there is hardly one definitive group of women that represents Asia, but simply saying the phrase "women of Asia" elicits certain long-interred expectations as to what these women should be.

Korean-American playwright Asa Gim Palomera knows this, and her good intentions are clear - to lift the Asian woman out of victimhood and peel away the stereotypes from the struggles they face. Whether or not she succeeds, however, is another matter altogether.

Women Of Asia was written and first staged in the 1990s, an era of Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues and Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club, and on several occasions it does feel like Palomera has borrowed heavily from both. She has provocative monologues aplenty, as well as the flavours of domestic life and that connection between mothers and daughters.

On a spartan stage (at Lasalle's Flexible Performance Space), an ensemble cast performs a series of seven vignettes bookended by a prologue and epilogue. A Japanese woman (Charis Ng) trapped in a loveless marriage attempts to take matters into her own hands, with fatal results; an opera singer (Koh Chieng Mun) rips into the Orientalism of Madame Butterfly; an Indian woman (Nora Samosir) learns from her mother-in-law to be an oppressive figure in the same household. There are also lighter moments, revolving around two couples and their culinary disagreements.

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