Adventure Carries The Old Globe’s Creative ‘Exotic Deadly’

Anna Mikami and Eunice Bae. (Photos courtesy of Rich Soublet II.)

Anna Mikami and Eunice Bae. (Photos courtesy of Rich Soublet II.)

Over the past few years, Keiko Green has given standout performances in both Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company’s production of God of Carnage and Cygnet Theatre’s staging of The Great Leap. She is also an accomplished playwright, and her unique prose are in full display throughout the wonderful World Premiere presented by The Old Globe, Exotic Deadly: Or the MSG Play.

In 1999, a Japanese American high schooler, Ami (Anna Mikami) is living an ordinary life, and has loving and tense relationships with her mom (Amy Kim Waschke) and brother (Trevor Salter). Her world becomes dangerous when she learns about the flavor enhancer, monosodium glutamate (MSG). Making things more complicated is the arrival of a rebellious student at her school, Exotic Deadly (Eunice Bae).

Green’s dialogue hooked me right away with plenty of 90’s humor and references. Within the first few scenes, there are well-timed jokes that reference everything from “Clueless” to “Good Will Hunting.” Her creative narrative features the imagination of a teenage storyteller, but is full of deeper sequences that feel like a playwright reflecting on her youth.

Director, Jesca Prudencio, stages fast-paced sequences and more contemplative moments at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre with an emphasis on plot and Ami’s character arc.

Although Green starts off Exotic Deadly as a straightforward comedy, the stakes rise as conflicts with Ami’s brother and mom and MSG grow. Mixing with laughs is social commentary about American’s general negative reaction to MSG, and touching messages about the importance of family, living and deceased. There are surprises with how these elements are handled, and Green deserves credit for treating the twists with a matter-of-fact tone that makes the revelations about MSG and family impactful.

Trevor Salter and Anna Mikami

Trevor Salter and Anna Mikami.

Prudencio’s direction, Yu Shibagaki’s set, Hahnji Jang’s costumes, Cha See’s lighting and Fan Zhang’s audio depict Ami’s imaginative world.

As Green’s alter ego, Mikami depicts Ami’s awkward sense of humor and determination to do the right thing with likable charisma. In her professional theatre debut, Mikami keeps the audience invested in Ami’s journey. Bae, Salter, Waschke, Michelangelo Hyeon and James Seol are very funny as the other characters in the comedy-drama fantasy adventure, and handle serious interactions with emotional depth. All of them share great stage chemistry with Mikami.

Some might criticize the lack of an intermission during the roughly hour and fifty-minute show. While that’s a valid criticism, I didn’t feel one was needed, because of the strong pacing.

With a balance of laughs, dramatic situations and fantastical elements, Exotic Deadly left me wowed by Green’s unique voice. This tale will have many eagerly awaiting future plays she creates as a theatre artist.


[box] Show times are Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m, Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m (May 3 only) and 7:00 p.m Thursdays at 8:00 p.m, Fridays at 8:00 p.m, Saturdays at 2:00 p.m and 8:00 p.m, Sundays at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. [/box]

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