Nestled in the dark, sexy enclave that is the Yale Cabaret lurks “Hong Kong Dinosaur,” a quirky Australian love story written by Amelia Roper DRA ’13 and directed by Kate Attwell DRA ’13. Living up the spectacle suggested by its name, almost every moment in the hour-long show leaves you with a bitter mixture of confusion and disappointment tempered only by the solace of its occasional cheap thrills.
Set in a small town near Melbourne, the show begins when the dorky paleontologist Jian (Walter Byongsok Chon DRA ’13) descends on newlywed couple Sam (Max Roll DRA ’13) and Zoe (Huei Li Leow SOM ’12). Already unstable due to Zoe’s recent pregnancy and the helicopter parenting of Sam’s mother (Caroline McGraw DRA ’12), the couple is driven further apart by Jian’s attempts to tear down their house to excavate a newly discovered dinosaur. Added pressure comes from Melanie (Brenda Meaney DRA ’13), the prime minister’s assistant who inserts herself into the family’s strange dynamic as she tries to convince the couple to move off their property.
The linear portion of the storyline is interspersed with scattered flashbacks, both of scenes from Sam and Zoe’s meeting in Hong Kong and from a wartime family who once lived in Sam and Zoe’s house. Instead of adding a layer of complexity to the show’s plot, this alternate storyline serves no purpose other than to confuse the show’s otherwise cheeky tone by providing seemingly random moments of serious dialogue.
To make matters worse, the wartime subplot seems forced. The script of the main storyline is filled with pot shots, playing on issues of racial stereotypes and traditional mother-in-law-daughter-in-law drama. But the links between the funny and downright depressing spheres of the play are random when they are meant to be striking, contrived where they should be poignant. The show’s main premise could have been perfect for a short piece of light entertainment, but is hindered by melodramatic subtext.
The flashbacks’ inconsistent tone reflects the show’s inconsistencies as a whole, its insecurity in being either comedy or drama. There are moments of serious social commentary, which had the potential to add genuine feeling to the script’s dependence on shallow jokes, but even these fail due to their awkward juxtaposition. In one scene, the conflict between government and individual begins to emerge when the prime minister herself visits Sam and Zoe. While the production could have capitalized on this moment to make a statement, the mood is ruined by the prime minister’s dinosaur costume and frustrating jibberish.
“Hong Kong Dinosaur” has its moments, but it can’t decide what it’s trying to be. Hilarious lines are distracted from and distorted by strangely forced links to a more emotional and meaningful context, while scenes that actually cause the audience to stop and think don’t follow through on their implications.
Sometimes, you should just let sleeping dinosaurs lie.