Theater Review: A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME (Hollywood Fringe Festival)

by Samuel Garza Bernstein on June 17, 2018

in Theater-Los Angeles

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HALLUCINOGENS, MAN-WHORES
& CHINA PEOPLE

I’m not sure why Steve Chang chose to call his world premiere one-man show at the 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival A Complete Waste of Time. It isn’t. He isn’t. And his aim doesn’t seem to be anything as trivial as what the title suggests. Chang tells a number of stories about his life as a gay “China person” who goes to sometimes extraordinary lengths to find connection — to himself and to other people. The situations he talks about getting himself into tend to start simply, then grow increasingly weird, dangerous even. Easy jokes turn into observations that are still funny, but also specific and meaningful.

Chang trips out on a hallucinogenic drug called Ayahuasca on a search for spiritual meaning in Peru, perhaps not learning to love himself, but discovering something of meaning despite himself. He attends a weekend gay conversion camping retreat out of snarky curiosity yet feels unexpected connection with the men there struggling with their sexuality. There are silly, self-consciously naughty quips about bestiality and huge dicks, but also evidence of a searching mind and heart beneath his self-deprecation and his stated inability to love himself.

One of the funnier sequences involves him rejecting a “man-whore” from rentboy.com who falsely claimed on the site to be a former Playgirl model (that Chang used to masturbate over in high school). “What, I’m not good enough for you?” asks the hooker. “No,” Chang says, “If anything, you’re hotter than me. I just don’t think you’re worth $300.” When things threaten to turn violent, Chang is proud that he stands up for himself and refuses to go through with the assignation or to pay — immediately copping to the fact that finding something to be proud about when you’re hiring a rent boy in Vegas is something of a stretch.

Chang plans to take the show to Edinburgh, and I encourage him to embrace the weirder experiences more fully and add to them, while cutting a few segments that are more in the territory of what he calls his quest to become the Asian Jeff Foxworthy. There’s a long bit about whether you are the “bitch” or the “boss” at work that grows monotonous, isn’t particularly original, and doesn’t seem specific to Chang. His dating app material is similarly generic. He enthuses over the time saving potential of being rejected by 100 people a day, but admits to rejecting tons of men himself. “If I don’t want to fuck you, I’ll never fall in love with you.” Fair enough. But lots of comics could tell that joke. And using “Have you ever noticed…?” to segue between material is a device older than God.

The show is directed by UCB Theater veteran John Flynn, who approaches Chang and his material with surprising hesitation. Movement, light changes, and sound effects pop up only intermittently. Mostly it just looks like standup. That’s okay as it goes — but I would like to see Chang and Flynn push things further. The talent is there. Embrace it fully. When you’re someone who doesn’t mind talking about how in kindergarten you wanted to fuck the hot 5-year-old boy across the room, the sky is the limit.

A Complete Waste of Time
part of the 2018 Hollywood Fringe Festival
The Actors Company, 916 A North Formosa Ave
ends on June 22 , 2018
for tickets ($10), visit ACWOPR
$2 off ticket price with discount code “acwopr”

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