Kurt Kwan in Cowboy versus Samurai
Thinking about seeing “Cowboy versus Samurai” at the Guthrie? Here are excerpts from the reviews for the Theater Mu production. To read the full review, simply click on the name of the critic.
Enlightenment in the theater doesn’t have to come at the end of an aesthetic billy club. It’s possible to laugh and learn at the same time, a nifty and altogether enjoyable trick turned by Theater Mu’s current production of “Cowboy Versus Samurai” on the Guthrie Theater’s Dowling Stage.
Three-fourths of the Mu ensemble are veterans of the company’s 2006 production of “Cowboy Versus Samurai,” and under the direction of new helmsman Randy Reyes the script gets the best possible treatment. As an actor, Reyes is especially known for his comic talents, and he’s successfully transfused some of his instincts into Sherwin Resurreccion, who plays Chester, the more militant of the two Asian guys.
It’s a plot ripped right out of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” and while playwright Golamco adds plenty of value, his script — filled with sharply drawn characters and biting humor; generously dosed with racial insight — is good but not great: The situations are overly convenient and Golamco doesn’t exactly stretch when it comes to his predictable resolution…”Cowboy Versus Samurai,” which offers a couple hours of entertainment that runs from sweet to sour and bitter to bright. It’s well worth seeing.
In the lead role of Travis, Kurt Kwan evinces a humble everyman quality that strives to stay levelheaded even under emotional upheaval. For a striking portrayal of lovesick pain, look no further than Kwan’s face as Veronica gushes over “Del’s” letters. With Sun Mee Chomet in the role of Veronica, it’s all too easy to empathize with Travis. Chomet imbues Veronica with a swaggering strength that refuses to follow socially approved standards. Only in quieter moments, as when Veronica commiserates with Travis over past loves gone wrong, does Chomet poignantly expose her character’s wounded heart.
Less successful attempts to convey the implications of racial identity often play like a well-intended but laborious student essay. By placing such thought-provoking insights into a humorous and engaging narrative, however, Cowboy Versus Samurai eloquently argues that romance transcends race.
I’ve seen many productions in the Guthrie Theater’s Dowling Studio, but never has the crowd there sounded so much like a studio audience. In the comic first half of Cowboy Versus Samurai, the regular laugh lines hit with perfectly-timed booms of chortling, a live laugh track entirely appropriate to the play’s glossy sitcom-style humor. In the second half, though, the booms turn to bust as the comedy gives way to a hackneyed romance between the two central characters, culminating in a climax that takes the production’s final seconds straight from a nice moment of visual invention to a cheesy conclusion that moves the show from sitcom territory into the terrain of the telenovela.
So, have you seen Cowboy versus Samurai? If so, what did you think?