Not So Hysterical

Dave and I saw Hysteria at the Aurora Theater today. I think there may well be a gripping play to be found somewhere in the whole unpleasant business of Freud’s recantation of his own seduction hypothesis, but this isn’t it. The farcical parts aren’t really very farcical — you don’t create a farce just by having characters hide in closets and slam doors a lot — and the serious parts are terribly earnest, one-sided, and clumsily contrived.

I have no idea what Dali is doing in the play — even though he’s the funniest character on stage, he has nothing much to do with anything. I got the feeling that the author was figuring if Tom Stoppard could write a play about James Joyce, Tristan Tzara, and Lenin all being in the same city at the same time, then by God he could write a play about the fact that Dali once visited Freud.

The play is occasionally funny — especially an unexpected series of events near the end — but only occasionally. At other times it’s pretty lame. Usually it’s neither all that bad or all that good, just uninspired and, I thought, oddly predictable.

Cut Sleeve Boys

Dave took me to see this movie on Tuesday — he’d seen it the night before and liked it a lot despite a lot of negative reviews, and he wanted to see it again.

I agreed with him — it’s a delight, a lightweight but skillfully told satirical romantic comedy about two gay Asian friends living in London. Some of it is a bit clumsy here and there, but on the other hand a lot of it is absolutely brilliant, both in its quirky observation of a subculture that there just haven’t been a whole lot of movies about, and in its shrewd storytelling technique. I was won over by the opening sequence alone — look at how much information is given to us before the first word of dialogue is spoken, and in ways that are both elegantly economical and laugh-out-loud funny.

The performances are terrific all around, and I thought Steven Lim’s as Melvin Shu was especially good, a remarkably rich and inventive portrayal of a remarkably shallow person. I thought Chowee Leow was completely endearing (in spite of being something of a bitch) as his friend Ashley Wang, taking the plunge into full-blown transvestitism for the first time.

I wonder whether some of the coolness of the reviews might have to do with critics not knowing enough about the subcultures involved to catch on to all the humor. There were an awful lot of very small and understated things that had Dave and me laughing hard — but I’ve been partnered to a first-generation Chinese-American man for nearly a decade and a half and so a lot of it for me was the laughter of recognition.

Oh, and Ash’s kitchen — oh my god. Every new camera angle had me laughing. The set designer must have had a ball — just the contrast between Ash’s and Mel’s kitchens alone tells us volumes about the two.

Well worth seeing before it leaves the theaters and metamorphs to DVD.