By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
“Sex in Seattle 17: Coming Clean” is this year’s installment of the lives of Jenna, Elizabeth, and Tess — three single Asian American friends coping with their complicated love lives. The play is currently showing at the Richard Hugo House on Capitol Hill through Oct. 17. Its subtitle, “Coming Clean,” refers to the romantic decisions that each woman must make so that she can be truly happy.
Tess (played by Leilani Berinobis) has decided that she wants to be single. However, she is pursued by her Asian American male roommate, Colin, as she lusts after her white friend, Nathan. Tess must decide whether her libido will conquer her desire to be a single woman. In one of the surprising moments of the play, Tess’ decision to stay away from relationships with men causes her to make a desperate plea to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth (co-creator Katy Hsieh) is torn between her ex-fiancée, Kenneth, her ex-husband, Harold, and her online lover. Elizabeth has fallen in love with George, the online-Romeo, via online chatting. He is Kenneth’s white friend. However, Elizabeth does not know that George is her online love or that George is in love with her.
Jenna (May Nguyen) is pregnant. She does not know who the father of her child is. There are three men who are willing to care for the child (and be with Jenna). Due to the pregnancy, Jenna has second thoughts about getting married to her current boyfriend, Adam, as she may have feelings for someone else.
In order to sort out this mess, a Heavenly Spirit (Toni Rose) appears at the beginning of the play, assigning her apprentice to observe the women. Similar to “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the Apprentice (Andy Justus), must ensure that the ladies are happy with their love choices before returning to heaven.
Justus is underutilized and could have provided more of a comedic element. The Apprentice, dressed in a schoolboy blue sweater over a button-down white shirt, makes one believe that heaven has a dress code.
A notable performance in the play was that of George (Tom Falcone). He is the stereotypical lovable, chubby sidekick friend that eats Cheetos with chopsticks. Falcone embraces the socially awkward character of George and his eternal quest to attract a woman. His creation of a dual persona to attract women is one of the funnier moments in the play.
This year’s version of the SIS series seems to lack the spirit and energy found in past installments. Patterned after the “Sex and the City” HBO series, scenes from television do not translate smoothly to the stage. In one instance, George is set to go on a date and he requests help from Kenneth and Elizabeth to make him look sexier.
This should have been a funny snippet of George trying on different clothes that make him look funny. A montage of what he should wear would be comedic if it were done on television with full, fast-clip editing capabilities. However, on stage and in real-time, it appeared forced, awkward, and uncomfortable to watch as George attempted to make several clothing changes within the span of a minute. In addition, dream and dance sequences woven into the play did not seem sharp or coordinated. The video sequences used in the play suffered from poor sound.
Although not its best effort, SIS still makes a statement in debunking the stereotypes of the dating life of Asian American women. Tess confesses her love for white men. Elizabeth feels compelled to date only Chinese men, which would make any relationship with her online love George impossible. Jenna does not seem to discriminate between races, which is portrayed through the potential fathers of her child.
“Coming Clean” did not live up to prior SIS efforts and seemed to forestall the maturity and growth of each of the main characters. Hopefully, the next episode will provide a return to the quick-wit and comedic timing and show the progress each character makes with their love choices. ♦