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Flash Review 1, 6-24: High High High High High
Getting HIGH with Slant Performance Group

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2000 Maura Nguyen Donohue

The guys who put their cocks on the line five years ago with "Big Dicks, Asian Men" have returned with their sixth show "HIGH," seen last night at La MaMa e.t.c. Slant, comprised of Rick Ebihara, Wayland Quintero and Perry Yung offers its most mature work to date, utilizing a more sophisticated approach towards examining issues of social inequity without forsaking its well-known brand of absurd satire. The addition of direction from Ron Nakahara allows these multi-talented performers the freedom to immerse in their roles in a way they haven't before. They are still zany and the subsequent theatrical ride is still wild, but without the usual mania. The investment is noticeably deeper as their exploration of form expands and their working concept moves from the everyday profane to the mythically profound. The sense of ensemble has been strengthened without any loss to each member's inherent individuality.

I've known these guys since before they were Slant and, having collaborated with them a few years ago on "Lotus Blossom Itch," have been privy to their general working process. At times this process has appeared barely hidden by a loose conceptual framework designed to allow each member of the triumvirate a turn at some current idea. This happens again in HIGH but with a more clearly realized, albeit illusory, through line. From the opening strains of a subway busker's rendition of the theme from "The Godfather" until the trio's final ascent back into a well-lit subway car, we are brought farther and farther into a fantastic, apocalyptic realm. Mike Kang's imaginative lighting design works very well to heighten the tone of the physical environment. The main population of this underground world consists of Quintero's overzealous drone robocop relentlessly trained by a fascist, but unnamed, "Mayor"; Ebihara's joyous, puppy dog mole person deeply in love with his various bottles; and Yung's gross, glam, "Mad Max," "Blade Runner" post modern un-pied piper of a subway musician.

Ebihara's tragic operetta of the love triangle between bottles of Chardonnay, Amaretto and Jack Daniels is a high point of both humor and craft. He manages to skillfully shift what seemed at first to be a kind of Adam Sandler-style play song into an artful matching of his powerful voice and naturally ebullient stage manner. Yung displays his extensive background in dance in a hilarious rendition of the typical crushing of an American Dream by the insanity of the auditioning process, as he jumps from ballet to Graham to tap to Fosse to 'ethnic' dance at the whim of an offstage voice. Quintero offers up a lament for his robocop's empty existence following the funeral for a fallen bottle. And then all three join to together for the formulaic, but still funny, final gas mask ballet. It worked in the first show with the three sporting enormous phalli and in "The Second Coming" with flippers and goggles (they were sperm), and when they were enormous goldfish in "wetSpot." It works again but I personally dug hearing Black Sabbath's "Ironman" on the Shakuhachi. Pure Asian America -- heavy metal on a Zen meditation flute.

"HIGH" runs Saturday and Sunday at 7:30pm and also Sunday at 2:30pm at La MaMa e.t.c., 74 E. 4th St. For more information, visit La MaMa's web site.

(Editor's Note: For more info on dancer, choreographer, and writer Maura Nguyen Donohue, visit her company's web site. To read a review of her recent concert, see Flash Review, 5-12: Boy in Babeland.)

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