The Wong Street Journal
Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
Through November 19
American armchair activists receive a solid drubbing in The Wong Street Journal. Kristina Wong’s solo show is not only dynamic, clever and entertaining; it’s also a compelling reminder of the harsh conditions that exist outside the ken of most Americans. After poking relentless fun at unchecked social media and clueless white privilege, Wong transports her audiences to Third World Africa, recollecting a trip she took there in 2013. (Talk about showing us the world from another perspective. . .)
Wong’s prime target for satire (but not her only one) is the privileged white person — a somewhat elastic category, as the main person whose attitudes initially are critiqued is Wong herself – a third generation Chinese-American. On introduction, Wong describes herself as “a performance artist who fights for the marginalized,” who engages in everyday battle with bigots, racists and sexists via Twitter and Facebook. At some point though, Wong begins to worry about her “legacy” — which inspires a 3-week trip to Uganda, where she volunteers for an NGO that provides tiny loans to African women to start their own businesses.
Many of the people she meets are survivors of the 2006 civil war there, during which time warlord Joseph Kony kidnapped children and conscripted them to fight as soldiers, and women were forced to become sex slaves for some of his combatants.
As an outsider, Wong is asked to act as judge in an awards ceremony to determine the two most valuable women serving the cause of women’s empowerment. She also becomes friendly with a musician looking to set up his own recording studio. He and Wong meet at a market where he is selling food and she haggles his price down by 50%. The communication continues after she returns to the States, when, following a series of ironic events, his dream becomes reality — and her legacy.
The Wong Street Journal is the kind of show that eludes satisfactory description because the imagination and electric in-your-face energy of this performer can only be noted, not fully expressed in a review. Wong uses bar graphs (sometimes hilariously) slides and video to tell her story. And props. In perhaps the funniest and probably most memorable sequence, she tosses dozens of red fabric hashtags at the audience who toss them back. It’s a brilliant metaphor for the insular way many of us engage with each other.
Lest I’ve put you off with the mention of impoverishment, slavery and war, let me assure you that this is above all smart comedic stuff, and as inspirationally feminist as you can get.
Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles; Sat.., Nov 3, 7:30 pm; Sun., 11/5, 1 pm; Sat., Nov. 11, 7:30 pm; Sun., 11/12, 3 pm; Fri., Nov 16, 7:30 pm; Sun., 11/19, 11 pm; through November 19. http://www.bootlegtheater.org/theater/; Running time: one hour and 20 minutes with no intermission.