If you’re a rom com fan, this is the show for you
|Photo courtesy of Theater Mu|
I’ve waxed ad nauseam about my love for new theater work, and one of my favorite companies consistently celebrating and commissioning new plays is Theater Mu. Their new play, Hot Asian Doctor Husband, is another exciting addition to the catalog and one I think will be traveling around the country for some time.
It goes like this: Emi and Collin seem made for each other – except they’re not. At least in her mind. Emi is mixed race, and the more serious things get with Collin, the more she questions if they have a viable future. She is especially worried about having kids who might not identify with her Japanese heritage. To further complicate things, Emi’s mother, who raised her a single parent and was her last direct link to her ethnic history, recently died in a tragic accident. Emi decides to take a leap of faith and find a “hot Asian doctor husband” to fulfill her fantasy of an idyllic Asian American household, breaking up with Collin and stunning her friends.
The trouble is, of course, that love doesn’t work on preferred timelines and specific fantasies. Emi and especially Collin still have feelings for each other, which is plainly evident when they continue to run into each other after the breakup. Emi does find a hot Asian doctor and it seems like things will work out; the only trouble is that he is already someone else’s husband, which Emi learns in a devastating emotional blow that finally pushes her to confront her unprocessed depression and sadness about her mother’s death. The play goes a little off the rails after the affair with the doctor ends, taking a turn from nippy comedy into a serious exploration of mental health issues; it felt a little bit like two different plays in one, but it leaves the audience with a rich understanding of Emi’s identity crisis by the time we leave.
The cast includes Theater Mu regulars and several newcomers, and they’re a really fun crew. Meghan Kreidler deftly handles the role of Emi. No matter how serious or radical her character’s actions seem, Kreidler keeps them believable and touching. Damian Leverett is a joy as the shunned, mournfully #woke Collin; by leaning into the stereotype, he finds some kernels of truth about the white male experience that are new on the stage. Mikell Sapp is delightful as Emi’s best friend Leonard. I haven’t seen him on stage before and I sure hope this isn’t the last time. Danielle Troiano is equally lovely as Leonard’s girlfriend Veronica, bringing vulnerability and poise to the role. Eric Sharp is thoroughly, gut-splittingly hilarious as the Hot Asian Doctor Husband. His scenes were among my favorite in the show and I wish we got a little more of him. And eternal favorite Sun Mee Chomet is fabulous as the Mother characters, milking the most of her time on stage and making a great mentor to Maekalah Ratsabout, the young actress playing the child version of Emi.
The clever scenic design by Sarah Brandner is millennial approved and has all sorts of Ikea-style innovations that keep the action swiftly moving and the aesthetic clean. Costumes, by Jeni O’Malley, are equally well matched to the tone. Karin Olson’s lighting design and Katharine Horowitz’s sound design are subtle and warm, enhancing the action on stage (especially Horowitz’s original music, composed with Damian Leverett). And it’s good to see the importance of physical movement in comedy embraced by Magnolia Yang Sao Yia’s clever choreography and Lauren Keating’s intimacy consulting, a field I suspect we’ll see much more of on programs around #tctheater in this season and beyond.
Hot Asian Doctor Husband is one of the shows I was most excited for this year, and it doesn’t disappoint. Like any new play, there is some revision I’d do on a future iteration to help clarify the story – is it about Emi and Collin’s relationship, or her relationship with her mother? – but the content here is engaging and has a lot of potential. It’s a golden time for Asian Americans* in the rom com world, and Theater Mu’s consistently approachable and inspiring new work is a vital addition to the genre. Make sure to head to Mixed Blood Theatre to check it out before it closes on September 1; click here for more information or to buy tickets.
*If you want more shows like this one on the silver screen, you’re in luck! Here are a few in the last year that I have really loved:
- Crazy Rich Asians (I also devoured the book series – highly recommend as perfect beach reads)
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Probably my favorite on this list – keep an eye out for the sequel next year!)
- Always Be My Maybe (and don't miss Ali Wong's comedy stand-up specials, also on Netflix)
- Anything by Mindy Kaling - I especially love The Mindy Project, but Late Night and Four Weddings and A Funeral are also surefire bets. And although technically off the scope of this list, who could possibly forget The Office (the episodes Kaling authors are all my favorites)
- Fresh Off the Boat (Not technically a rom com but a hilarious comedy that does include winsome romance in some episodes and two of my favorite stars of movies listed above, Constance Wu and Randall Park)