Theater: “Peerless” at 59 e 59
Does my heart good to see talent like Benny Wayne Sully and Shannon Tyo grace the stage of 59 e 59. In fact, in the words of Chief Dan George (from the Arthur Penn movie “Little Big Man”), my heart soars like a hawk.
And that’s appropriate because Sully may be the funniest (and maybe the only) Lakota-American comedian I’ve ever seen. With his rubbery face and skinny double-jointed body, he plays “D,” the HS nerd caught between warring twin sisters (played by Tyo and by Sasha Diamond) in “Peerless,” Jiehae Park’s darkly funny play about minorities battling over entrance to an Ivy League college.
Turns out the school (called “THE college” but obviously referring to Harvard) only has room for one minority student from this particular high school. Will it be “L,” the Asian-American twin who makes Lady Macbeth look like an amateur? Or “D,” the daffy descendant of a Native American chief who prattles on and on about his walnut allergy? And to what ends will the students stoop to win?
Canny theatergoers will note “Macbeth” references throughout, including a character called Dirty Girl (Marie Botha) who scrambles about the stage like one of Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters, and a few Banquo-ghost-type appearances. Margot Bordelon’s razor-sharp direction keeps the play moving at a clip—and the audience (whose average age was about 20 at my performance) in stitches.
In her bio, Park who is Korean-American says, “When I scored 20 points shy of perfect on my SAT, my mother’s first response was to ask when I planned to take the test again.” For an hilarious treatment of a timely subject, this play scores 800, hands down.