Spotlight: Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven


Young Jean Lee sets out to make a show about being Korean-American without lapsing into easy identity politics or in-your-face confessions. I've only seen this show on DVD (it opens tomorrow night as the third installment of the Walker's Out There series), but I found myself at times discomfited by Songs of the Dragon Flying to Heaven, at others laughing unreservedly. The show opens with a disturbing video of Lee, close-up, being slapped repeatedly in the face while she weeps and traditional Korean music plays in the background. It's a shocking image, and its combination of vulnerability and naked self-exploitation manages to typify the work. The balance of the show seesaws between apparently unconnected worlds: In one, Lee and three Asian women use music, dance, and dialogue to bash around the reality of being Korean vs. Korean-American; in the other, a white couple sits at a table and conducts a (frequently hilarious) dialogue of stark despair and hopelessness. At one point Lee blatantly cops Sarah Silverman's cute-girl-with-a-disgusting-mind shtick, all wide-eyed and pretty-faced as she describes Asian parents as "retards," then with a straight face declares that Americans will one day kneel before the wily Korean people. This is a show in which women in traditional Korean robes mime various suicide techniques while Mariah Carey rocks in the background, and one in which Ecclesiastes is broken down as a worthy explanation for why everything sucks, and always will. In other words, it's a good deal of fun, after the slapping and tears have been dispensed with.