CFUV @ UNO: ‘Suitcase Stories’ review

Written by on 05/19/2015

SUitcase SToriesThe prototypical Asian immigrant story usually revolves around a hard working person who drops everything for a better life in an unfamiliar place — someone earnest, eager, filled with hope. Many end up in the service industry, some open grocery stores or restaurants. But what about entering theatre? There are probably a few Asian immigrants who want to be actors, but who would defy the odds when traditional choices are hard enough? It’s not a typical path, but Maki Yi is no typical person.

Suitcase Stories is a one-woman show about Yi’s own immigration story, about leaving her family and friends for a foreign country. Her suitcase plays a supporting character, one that embodies her self-doubt. The pockets of her capri cargo jeans contained sidewalk chalk, which she used to draw lines and pictures all over the black box theatre. I later learned Yi was wearing the same clothes she wore when she first came to Canada. It explained the worn-down platform sneakers, a blast from the past I couldn’t stop looking at for the first minute of the performance.

At the start, her boundless, naive optimism was endearing, but I feared the performance would be one note, reminiscent of Forrest Gump or some other loveable dope that eventually wins people over with their dignity and perseverance. But Yi displays quite an emotional range, and she is quite honest about the racist attitudes she encountered (one Regina theatre instructor only saw her in supporting Asian roles) as well as embodied (her only knowledge of indigenous people came from the savage characters in American western films).

In addition, I’ve never seen someone on stage who spoke English with a Korean accent, which makes it all the more exciting for me. I’ve heard British, Australian, South African, even some South American accents, but never ones from Asia, and stories like Yi’s deserve to be told in their own voices. It took a minute to acclimatize to, but I clicked in just in time for her to start speaking French, which she learned in a bid to become more Canadian. She sings, too, sometimes with heartbreaking vulnerability. It’s an unusual twist to a common story, and one that must be seen.

Suitcase Stories runs again at Intrepid Theatre Club on:

Tues. May 19, 8:30 pm
Wed. May 20, 6:30 pm

For more CFUV coverage of Uno Fest 2015, click here.
For ticket info and showtimes, click here.

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