Geek Gal’s Review of Interstate: the Musical of Intersectionality and Band DramaBy Caroline Cao | July 19, 2018 | Lifestyle
Right move, Scarlett Johansson. Let the transgender people have their own voice.
The New York Musical Theatre Festival’s mission to diversify theatre is paying off with a rockin’ charmer., Interstate the musical pulls no punches on intersectionalities as a pop-rock poetry musical. The musical follows Dash (Jon Viktor Corpuz with kinetic spoken-word speed), a transgender spoken word performer, who sets off on a cross-country tour with his best friend Adrian (Angel Lin with a rocking and no-nonsense inflection), a lesbian singer-songwriter. Put two-and-two, they form the band Queer Malady. Meanwhile, a starry-eyed fan watches the pair from the Internet: Sushma Sama has tender eyes as high-schooler Henry. I had the treat of sitting close-up to a majority of Sama’s scenes, where I could see the wide-eyed torrent as their character vlogs adventures with equal parts dorkiness, anxiety, and exhilaration. Director Jessi D. Hill meticulously navigates a minimalist set with the ensemble crossing and intersecting into the characters’ lives, sometimes as gossipers, or supporters of the heroes.
With some autobiographical touches, Writers and lyricists Kit Yan and Melissa Li do not shirk on the intersectional dynamics, lining situations with delicate on-point touches about queer suffering and affirmation. From an Asian man happy to play into the toxic (and western) masculinity as he harasses Adrian and an Asian patriarch (Kiet Tai Cao) who may be enthusiastic about his son’s transition but not just out of support but masculine pride, resulting to a darkly funny line, “When you told me you were to become a boy, I thought, UPGRADE.” Dash is hooked on the archaic “win the girl” mentality, which spurs his romantic pursuit of his lesbian friend and threatens their platonic rapport. The intersectionality is not sidelined but inherent to the boiling plot tensions.
The words do not shy away from the mental drudgery it takes for a queer Asian person of color to play deferent against bigotry and cognitive dissonance on whether to react or stay quiet in situations beyond control. In the hands of heteronormative maker, the material would be heavy-handed, but told by queer voices the musical is aptly heavy with feels. The political is personal. This musical is a win and deserves to extend beyond its five-day run, wherever the road may take it.