These are your prophets in The Scam
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The Scam What’s the deal with the boulder in the center of Yo Mama’s Got Drama Theatre Company’s stage? That’s one of the questions a person would ask upon entering Christopher R’s theater-of-the-absurd play.

SD Fringe Festival: The Scam

Two biblical-like prophets sound their trumpets in a barren space. “Did you find it?” one character asks. “No. You?”

They have been in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. Looking for….what? Jacho, the older prophet, dressed in white, and Ralo, the bearded prophet, dressed in brown, blast the Big Questions back and forth: “Do you know what we’re looking for?” “What is life?” "What is the purpose of life?” “Give us meaning?”

Who do they address? At one point, Jacho extends his arms while Ralo “dials” the chest area of the former, trying to get a signal, à la static radio.

After a while, they do get a response from their flock of sheep! And they’re committed to “trust in the Word.”

More than once, the actors forgot their lines, which didn’t come off as such due to the debunking of “the well-made play” nature inherent in absurdist theater.

At the end, out of their loose-fitting ancient biblical garbs and in fancy new threads, the two characters tend to a different flock.

The Scam excoriates religion but not in a new way. And in the prophets’ wilderness, we take our place next to the boulder and try to make meanings out of meaninglessness. We do the best we can without falling prey to the machinations of con artists.

Second Chances for Grace Before the main actress enters, stand-up comedian Isak Allen warms up the crowd with a brisk routine. Sporting a mohawk, he quips: “What is this you’re looking at?” With a wave across his face, he answers, “Half of me built the railroads, while the other half told the first-half to do so.”

SD Fringe Festival: Second Chances For Grace

A young woman enters with Mickey Mouse and Barbie puppets in her hands, singing the intro to Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.” Kiki Yeung, as Grace, recounts her life story. She and her family came to the U.S. from Hong Kong. Her father collected over 5000 CDs and now calls himself Elvis. Her mother, in broken English, confidently challenges her husband and daughter to “take me the way I are.”

In San Diegan Asian Artist Ensemble’s coming-of-age story, growing pains and pure pleasures are affectingly portrayed. From every Chinese child’s struggle to carry out their parents’ wish to become a piano prodigy to dealings with weight issues, from experiments with sex, drugs, and 1990s-era raves (in college, Grace was “disciplined and focused about weed”), from chasing the new American dream of becoming an actress in Hollywood to falling in love with the Word (“luxurious, lose-control Jesus-love”), Kiki Yeung paints a moving and joyous portrait of the artist as a young woman.

“Despite the systematic squelching of Asian and Asian American cultures,” this reviewer wants to tell his younger self, “there’s so much to cherish who you are.” This is only the beginning of taking pride in being Asian in this country — with second chances and heroic, funny acts like Grace.

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