An Evening With Miss Wong
Written and directed by Ross Ericson
Grist To The Mill Productions Ltd
Detailing the struggles of growing up a Chinese American in the 1920s and dreaming of a life on the silver screen, Michelle Yim steps into the shoes of Wong Liu Tsong, the actor who came to known internationally as Anna May Wong.
In a performance that touches on most of the major roles she played, as well as the early years of her life, Grist to the Mill has painted an endearing portrait of the Hollywood star.
Yim, decked out in top hat and tails, beguiles the audience with a sly smile, a gentle manner and some truly impressive singing. Beginning with the artist's tragic death then skipping backwards to the beginning, we learn the story of her life.
Indeed, while it's a fascinating story, the details that step away from Hollywood feel flimsy and thinly sketched; so much so, that towards the end it's stated in dialogue that this is only as much as Wong feels comfortable sharing. Whether that is a result of a lack of source material, an unwillingness to speculate too much, or staying in keeping with her public persona, it has the unfortunate side effect of making the piece feel emotionally flat, since the rare moments of real catharsis are so few.
Likewise, Yim's ever-chipper performance, although laudable, fails in that by shrugging off almost every stumble that beset Wong with a seemingly carefree abandon, she never quite lets the audience in enough to allow for a true empathy. So while we may learn a great deal about the life of Anna May Wong, we never feel we truly get to know her.