A great con: Mu’s 'Fast Company' is silly fun with a family of crooks


©2019 RICHRYAN Rich Ryan

In Fast Company, playwright Carla Ching couches a family therapy session inside a caper about big lies, double cross, and thievery. This Theater Mu production, presented at the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio, ends up being more heartfelt than heart-stopping, garnering a few laughs along the way.

The story follows an Asian-American family of grifters who have a few issues to work out. Animosity is bubbling up and starting to affect their work, which often entails exploiting racist tropes to steal from their marks, unsuspecting rich white people. Mable, the head of the family, is facing a revolt from her three adult children. Some want to get in on the game, others want out completely. Ming Montgomery is Mable’s ambitious daughter, Blue; Eric ‘Pogi’ Sumangil plays wayward son H; and Brian Kim is Francis, who dreams about a death-defying career of a different sort.

As Mable, Jeannie Lander doesn’t seem much older than some of the actors playing her kids. Still, she bears the weight of her character ably, adding layers and balancing emotional vulnerability with callousness.

Beyond the various beefs they have with each other, they spend a lot of time discussing deceitful methods. Should “Spanish Prisoner” be used? Or “Pig in a Poke?” Things get interesting when college student Blue shares her ideas about using game theory, the science of logical decision making, for swindling purposes.

Miko Simmons’ projection design is a show-stealer here. Using the irregular shapes of Joel Sass’ set design, Simmons helps give scenes a sense of place and mood. Whether he’s projecting garish lights and signs to represent the outskirts of Las Vegas, a dimly lit noir-style office room, or an isolated meat locker, Simmons’ elements are fully immersive, taking us to a variety of locations in the increasingly absurd plot.

Brian Balcom directs, and keeps things light and silly. Yes, the ending is telegraphed before the conclusion, but that issue lies more with the script than with the direction or performances. Ultimately, this is a play that’s sometimes outlandish and a little bit corny. Bring a family member with whom you want to make amends; perhaps this show will provide some inspiration.

Fast Company
Guthrie Theater
818 S. Second St., Minneapolis
Through November 24; 612-377-2224