Cowboy vs Samurai
Is being Asian an obstacle to getting the girl? Travis, the protagonist in Looking Glass Productions’ new play, certainly thinks so.
Cowboy vs Samurai is an adaptation of Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano De Bergerac, the classic tale of a man who sees his extremely elongated nose as denying his own prospects for love. But in Michael Golamco’s modern version, first staged by the National Asian American Theater Company in New York City in 2005, Travis doesn’t have an excessive snout but, rather, is simply Asian. When Veronica, a beautiful Korean-American who only dates white men, arrives in the dusty town of Breakneck, Wyoming (a town that has only two Asians) and begins to date local PE teacher and all-American guy Del, Travis’ racial identity becomes the focus of his insecurities.
“[Golamco] takes Cyrano and makes it about someone’s skin, [about how it is] a supposed barrier, but how, if you can see through that and see the real integrity of people, it’s not a barrier at all,” says Irish director Paul Sheehan who, after taking the leading role in Looking Glass’ first show The Pillowman, is undertaking his Hong Kong directorial debut with this play. He has cast Eric Ng as Travis, Patricia Chiu as Veronica and Mike Paleos as Del in the local company’s second production, which will bring the Asian-American experience to the Fringe Studio.
The pervading ‘East meets West’ theme of the play is an important one for the Irishman, so much so that he has ambitiously introduced original music into the production fusing eastern timbres, such as the Korean Arirang, with traditional American country and western sounds. And with Chinese surtitles, Sheehan hopes that the play will be accessible to everyone. But how will Hong Kong audiences react? “Local people can see the show, imagine being in [Travis’] place and think ‘God’,” says the director. “But also for me, as an expat in Hong Kong, I can relate to them too… it’s classic story telling, extremely funny and I think a lot of people will relate to it and find something in it.” We think so too – especially if Travis gets the girl.