Monday, June 28, 2021


Randall Duk Kim, Pat Suzuki, Tina Chen.
THE YEAR OF THE DRAGON [Drama/Asian-American/Death/Family/Race] A: Frank Chin; D: Russell Treyz; S: Leo Yoshimura; S: Susan Hum Buck; L: Victor En Yu Tan; P: American Place Theatre; T: American Place Theatre (OB); 5/22/74-6/15/74 (29)

The second of Frank Chin’s plays about Chinese-Americans and their problems of social and cultural assimilation once again starred Randall (Duk) Kim and was given by the American Place Theatre. Its major point of interest was the realistic depiction of a milieu unfamiliar to the average American audience. The play itself was fairly conventional in its look at family issues, the generation gap, and the self-realization of a budding writer.

It tells of a San Francisco Chinatown family whose dying patriarch, Pa Eng (Conrad Yama), is the community’s mayor. It is the Chinese New Year and Pa Eng has gathered his brood to be with him when he passes. Around him are his first wife (Pat Suzuki), his successful restaurateur daughter from Boston (Tina Chen), his Caucasian son-in-law (Doug Higgins), his tourist guide son (Kim), and a shiftless younger son (Keenan Shimizu).

The play pictures the tensions that run through this group—parental, marital, cultural, and social. A good deal of the play focuses on the older son’s struggle with his father over the son’s future responsibility toward the family vis-à-vis his desire to become a writer.

Aside from the inherent interest in presenting a world then infrequently seen on the mainstream stage, the play provoked little enthusiasm. It was too discursive and lacking in “energy,” according to Clive Barnes. Edith Oliver faulted it for being “not yet as strong as it could be” because there was insufficient command of the dramatic action. John Simon concurred, noting that, despite “flashes of wit and flights of anger,” it lacked “discipline” and bordered on soap opera.

There were respectable notices for the acting, especially for Randall Kim, although Simon thought “his mannerisms are becoming disruptive.”

Do you enjoy Theatre’s Leiter Side? As you may know, since New York’s theatres were forced into hibernation by Covid-19, this blog has provided daily posts on the hundreds of shows that opened in the city, Off and on Broadway, between 1970 and 1975. These have been drawn from an unpublished manuscript that would have been part of my multivolume Encyclopedia of the New York Stage series, which covers every show, of every type, from 1920 through 1950. Unfortunately, the publisher, Greenwood Press, decided it was too expensive to continue the project beyond 1950.

Before I began offering these 1970-1975 entries, however, Theatre’s Leiter Side posted over 1,600 of my actual reviews for shows from 2012 through 2020. The first two years of that experience were published in separate volumes for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 (the latter split into two volumes). The 2012-2013 edition also includes a memoir in which I describe how, when I was 72, I used the opportunity of suddenly being granted free access to every New York show to begin writing reviews of everything I saw. Interested readers can find these collections on by clicking here. 

Next up: Yentl, The Yeshivah Boy