Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

Exotic Deadly: Or the MSG Play
The Old Globe
Review by Bill Eadie

The Cast
Photo by Rich Soublet II
"Fasten your seatbelts," as the old Bette Davis line goes. In director Jesca Prudencio's production of Keiko Green's Exotic Deadly: Or the MSG Play a world premiere at The Old Globe, the seatbelts are being fastened to keep the audience from falling out of their seats with laughter.

Ms. Green envisions a group of high school students (along with an adult or two) doing what high school students do: compete with each other for popularity while simultaneously feeling nervous about what they're doing. In this case, the students are being challenged by what becomes a rivalry between shy but clever Ami (Anna Mikami, playing a character whose name is sometimes pronounced "Amy" and sometimes "Ahmy" depending on how she is feeling) and the new girl in school (Eunice Bae), who is called "Exotic Deadly" and who is as threatening as MSG was at one time said to be.

Yes, there was such a thing as "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome," published as a brief note in a well-known peer-reviewed journal and then popularized by The New York Times; both grabbed hold of an idea that had a minuscule amount of evidence to support it. Yet, people were so afraid of the potential effects of added MSG that they avoided it like the plague. The play implies, with more than a little support, that avoidance of MSG is more a product of anti-Asian racism than anything, even among people of Asian ancestry themselves.

Ms. Green's play grabs hold of MSG and portrays it as an integral part of her characters' lives, from the construction of school lunchboxes to fantasies that take the characters to another time and place. The game cast plays along with lots of shifts in reality, and the giggling audience mostly gets the jokes.

Ms. Prudencio directs as if a whirlwind has hit, and the 100-minute play gallops along with only an occasional chance for the audience to catch its breath. All of this is executed expertly by the relatively anonymous cast (known as "Actor 3," "Actor 6," and so forth), whose names are Trevor Salter, Amy Kim Waschke, Michelangelo Hyeon, and James Seol. The director is abetted by designers who play with color of various types: scenic designer Yu Shibagaki, costume designer Hahnji Jang, lighting designer Cha See, and sound designer Fan Zhang.

Exotic Deadly: Or the MSG Play runs through May 7th. Miss it at your peril.

Exotic Deadly: Or the MSG Play runs through May 7, 2023, at The Old Globe, Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, Balboa Park, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego CA. Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. For tickets and information, please visit The Old Globe box office, call 619-23-GLOBE (234-5623), or visit