Wednesday, 8 July 2015

FringeTO: The Women of Tu-Na House Deserve a Warm Welcome

Even in death, Nancy Eng's beloved cat lives on. Eng conceived The Women of Tu-Na House as a therapeutic medium to cope with the loss of her  pet after their nineteen year relationship. The piece has since evolved from its three actor stage to a solo show that has played to appreciative audiences in the US and now Canada, thanks to the Toronto Fringe Festival.

Exploring the private world of sex and massage trade workers, Tu-Na House focuses on the lives of several women and one man. The stories are varied and fascinating, and Eng plays them all with the individuality and clarity that is demanded of a solo show. With the ring of a bell, a quick costume change and interspersed with recorded poetry that lends further insight into the lives of each character, Eng moves from one persona to the next with ease.

All the characters resonate with me, but a personal favourite is the tea server with Peking Opera roots. His reminiscences about his artistic past made me long to hear more about his experiences, and I'm sure many in the audience have the same thoughts about each of the workers at the massage parlour. sex trade house. In Tu-Na (mispronunciation of "tuina" which means massage in Chinese) House as with every other job, there are moments of boredom and repetition.  As one character shares, everyone gets tired of doing the same thing day after day, and if she looks old it's because she is old, and tired is tired. Another worker pretends to be FOB (Fresh Off the Boat). Even though she was born in the United States and has degrees in academia, she finds pidgin English nets her more clients, and she likes the amount of money that she makes per hour. Sad and hilarious is the tale of the employee who has to serve a client while dealing with the death of her cat. From an audience perspective, crying on the job has never been so funny!

There are occasions where Eng's husky voice is a bit difficult to understand, but her overall presentation of these pan-Asian women and man afford a non-judgemental look at the community that develops among the inhabitants, and at the world of their chosen profession. I feel grateful that The Women of Tu-Na house ends its Fringe run right here in Toronto.

The Women of Tu-Na House
St. Vlads Theatre (just south on Spadina at Harbord)

Remaining Shows
July 09 at 12:00 PM
July 10 at 12:30 PM  
July 12 at 02:45 PM

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