Kristina Wong is a force of nature. The good kind. Her NY Times Critics Pick, Pulitzer Prize nominated solo show,
now at the Kirk Douglas Theater through March 12, is a brilliant celebration of who we are or more importantly, who we 'could be' after coming out from under the isolation of the Covid 19 pandemic.
With a fearless, extremely funny, brilliantly self aware, truth telling candor, Kristina walks us through her journey generally from March 2020 through January 6, 2021, touching all of the familiar totem points: 'To mask or not to mask, George Floyd etc.' As she unfolds her personal actions during this time, we learn, in my opinion, that we are in the presence of a true activist. Not a perfect person, but a perfect activist; someone who simply took it upon themself to look at what was in front of them and do what needed to be done for her community, her city, her world.
Objectively, the play is a character study of our nation through the eyes, experience and character of Kristina Wong, a self proclaimed feminist performance artist with a long list of solo touring shows (i.e. the amazing "Wong Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest") exploring race, sex and privilege. Here Kristina tells the story of the pandemic stopping her career, leaving her to experience herself as a 'nonessential' (an actress needing audiences who can no longer gather). Instead of worrying about herself, she responds to a call (locally) for masks, and decides to transform herself into an unpaid 'essential worker' by getting out her somehow functional toy sewing machine and making as many working masks as possible for all in need. Before long she was surprised to find nurses and other first responders all over her for her masks. Word of mouth of her free service spreads so fast that she has to enroll other 'Aunties' (she calls them), from all over the country (world) to get out their sewing machines and help. In a time where billionaires chose to move themselves closer to being trillionaires, here, we experience the story of an inspired person sparking the spirit of so many others to simply do the right thing.
The staging of Sweatshop Overlord is active and dynamic. The set; colorful and smart. Every piece, including her props and costumes, is placed deliberately with wonderful prop reveals and payoffs feeding the production at every turn. the lighting design supports the fast paced script and delivery of this wunderkind of a performer.
Sweatshop Overlord is a welcome surprise to this new day of being able to gather and enjoy one another after isolation. It's also a brilliant call for all of us to embrace the possibility that it's easier than we think to 'do better' for our fellow man.
A Center Theatre Group and East-West Players co-production well worth a jaunt outside of the greater Hollywood area.