‘Hong Kong Mississippi’ Assessment: The Bluesman Subsequent Door

‘Hong Kong Mississippi’ Assessment: The Bluesman Subsequent Door

Wesley Du is aware of {that a} gawky Asian child isn’t who you’d anticipate to wind up enjoying the blues. Pinkie, the character written and carried out by Du in “Hong Kong Mississippi,” now operating at La MaMa, in Manhattan, is 11 years previous when he first hears the likes of Son House and Elmore James by way of the partitions of the grubby San Francisco residence he shares along with his mom. They run the Chinese restaurant downstairs, however Pinkie’s wistful, adolescent thoughts belongs to the tunes from the membership subsequent door, with their echoes of ache and promise.

Pinkie’s gravitation towards the blues, a style outlined by Black artists and legacies of racial injustice, is partly a product of circumstance and osmosis. A Chinese takeout counter abutting a music corridor is typical of the Tenderloin district within the Nineteen Nineties, when Du was listening to Michael Jackson on the radio and absorbing fashion cues from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” But Pinkie additionally describes “a sure oddness in being raised Chinese American” that generates his natural affinity with Black artists as fellow outsiders and their vibrant technique of expression.

When it involves wooing ladies, for instance, he comically borrows a contact of hip-hop swagger; and when a lady grinds down his spirit, he channels his ache into soulful music, guitar strings providing a form of transcendence. That girl, Pinkie’s formative heartbreaker, is his mom, affectionately performed by Du with a lilting accent. Pinkie reveres her as his solely household, however she sours on her son and his impractical pursuit of music. Pinkie’s unlikely father determine is a gruff bluesman subsequent door often called Cannonball, who at first tries to dismiss him in a flurry of racially modified expletives earlier than ultimately changing into his mentor (the play is titled after Pinkie’s stage title).

Du — who writes in this system that he was expelled from a playwright program on the University of California, Los Angeles, and now works as a therapist — is a deft and intuitive storyteller, crafting a witty and tender coming-of-age story in concise, vivid element. Du’s rapport with the viewers, as he performs greater than a dozen characters in 75 minutes, favors high-fives over confessional hand-wringing, within the method of a neighborhood child taking pictures the breeze. In his writing, Du traces complicated intersections of id with simple assurance, permitting psychological weight to build up somewhat than spelling it out for emphasis.

The director Craig Belknap finds ingenuity in simplicity, as with a dishcloth that, at one level, is wadded up right into a basketball then later flattened towards the waist right into a too-tight costume. Fluid, vibe-setting lighting (by Eric Norbury), in Chinese reds and jazz membership blues, and cleverly expressive sound (by Bill Froggatt) make the small black field theater fantastically versatile. Like Pinkie’s personal escape into the blues, “Hong Kong Mississippi” proves what artists can do with modest means however an abundance of ardour, pluck and causes to play.

Hong Kong Mississippi
Through May 14 at La MaMa, Manhattan; lamama.org. Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes.

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