I headed downtown to MOCA, the Museum of Chinese in America tonight to see FORMOSA by Kelly Tsai which was a real treat because it’s still in the development stage so I loved getting a special sneak peek. FORMOSA is a “solo show that through poetry, movement, dance and spectacle, pushes the questions of global capital, beauty, exploitation, and choice through a poetic narrative and counter-narrative contrasting the experiences of factory workers (in Barbie Doll manufacturing) with the material creation of the Western icon of beauty.”
FORMOSA takes place both in the far past and in the more recent present; it alludes to back in 1566, Portuguese sailors spotted the island of Taiwan and renamed it “La Ilha Formosa” (Beautiful Island).
It is a powerful portrayal of what it means to be Asian American and the issues we face, and Kelly realistically transforms herself into several different characters: The factory worker who immigrates to America and becomes a hip hop artist who conforms to the Western definition of beauty through skin whitening and extreme plastic surgery; the adopted Asian child; the Manhattan mothers.
The show really pulled viewers in and made us interested in what was to happen next, as well as had us in suspense during some moments. There were also some shock-value to the show that really made us think.
There is a lot to take in, but Kelly does a fantastic job with the writing, movement, and gives a heartfelt emotional performance. That being said, I would’ve liked to see more of a connection between the characters and I also felt that the ending was a little bleak and abrupt that doesn’t give much of a feeling of transcendence or hope. But it’s still a “Work in Progress” so there’s time to perfect and polish the piece.
After the show, I headed to Shanghai Café with some friends. This place had a great atmosphere, with lights of hot pink, blue and yellow on the ceiling with plenty of seating and an extensive menu, including soup dumplings, traditional Chinese specialties, desserts, bubble tea, and more.
We ordered family style, and started with a Shanghai Style Dim Sum: “Steamed Tiny Buns,” the famous Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao), — Pork and Crab Meat/Pork and fried scallion pancake. I liked the pork soup dumplings better than the ones including crab meat, and they had the perfect amount of hot tasty soup inside. I also liked that they weren’t too delicate so it was easy to eat. The scallion pancake was a little too puffy than what I’m used to and quite oily but still delicious.
Next came lo mein with chicken, pork and shrimp which is made out of the thick, fat noodles that are always so tasty. We also had crispy pepper pork chop, mixed vegetables of broccoli, bamboo shoots, carrots, mushroom and snowpeas. The pork chop was very salty, but its charms were still irresistible and had the perfect texture of crisp crunchiness. The vegetable dish was an assortment of tasty delight in a yummy sauce. The vegetables themselves also tasted fresh and were bright in color.
I also tried the one of the bubble teas, choosing Coffee and Tea mix with tapioca pearls. It was decent, but the taste of the coffee overpowered the tea a little bit. I would’ve preferred the drink to have a little more of a milky tea flavor but all in all, pretty good.
The pricing at Shanghai Café was quite good and we only paid $14 for our food, including tax & tip. Keep in mind, like many restaurants in Chinatown, it is cash only.
Address: 100 Mott St.