(Photo by Jenny Graham/SCR)
Written by Patrick Chavis
A Tiger parent is a form of strict child-rearing with an intense focus on academic success. It’s typically associated with Chinese culture. Amy Chua created the term Tiger mother in her famous book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
Tiger Style, an Asian American comedy about two overachieving siblings, is now playing at South Coast Repertory from May 15 – June 5, 2022.
Tiger Style is about two Chinese American siblings: Albert Chen, played by Jon Norman Schneider, and Jennifer Chen, played by Amy Kim Waschke. Jennifer is a successful oncologist — a doctor specializing in cancer. Albert is a software engineer making a respectable living, but he lags behind his overachieving sister. Even though both siblings have found academic and financial success, they blame their Tiger parents for making them feel unfulfilled socially. Mom was played by Emily Kuroda, and Daisuke Tsuji played Dad. Because of unfortunate circumstances, Ryan Yu, the original actor that plays Tzi Chuan/ Melvin/ Dad and General Tso, could not perform the night I watched.
It’s refreshing to watch a script and a show so current and relevant on stage with such sharp, biting comedy. Mike Lew’s satirical comedy is so American, and it’s juxtaposed so well with this story about the struggle to be accepted as American. Asian American identity or more specifically in this play Chinese American identity is never fully embraced in American culture instead it’s in this permanent, foreigner, limbo status even after generations of assimilation. Near the end of the play, without adding any spoilers, Lew puts together this solid visual image of this dehumanizing social stigma that hurts Chinese Americans. It’s no stretch to see how it affects other Asian immigrants coming into America as well. The play goes way beyond a surface-level analysis of culture, pushing away this very basic, powerfully ignorant thought that financial and academic success are the things that make us whole or accepted as people.
The chemistry and comedy between this brother and sister had me crying out laughing most of the show, and it builds as things get more and more intense as they start to rebel. The supporting characters were the glue that supported this comedy. All three of the actors played multiple characters. Derek Manson plays a myriad of jerks to perfection. I’m laughing about his performance as I’m writing this article. Emily Kuroda’s performance as Chen is something you don’t want to miss. So funny.
The set movement and the costumes were all performed at a high theatrical level. Because of unfortunate circumstances, one of the actors did have to read off the script, but the show must go on. Hopefully, this aspect of the show is rectified, and don’t let that deter you. It’s still very well done.