Recommended by Rich Smith
The shows I've seen at Cafe Nordo have been aggressively mediocre. But then Madame Dragon's 60th Birthday Bash comes along and saves the day by finally making sense of the venue's nouveau dinner theater. We're all gathered, Madame Dragon (Sara Porkalob) says in her humorously blunt manner, because she's getting old. To preserve her legacy, she must tell us all, her honorary grandchildren, her story, which ends up being a wild series of vignettes that involves Filipino gang rivalries, brothels, excellent sex, love, and hard living. The Birthday Bash is the latest iteration of Porkalob's Dragon Lady play, a solo show she's been developing for a few years. This version is completely different: The show is now a musical with original songs, and Porkalob has swapped the first and second acts, deciding to lead with the Dragon Lady's salacious, almost surreal life history and end the play with the family drama of her children and grandchildren gathering together to celebrate her 60th birthday. The conceptual overhaul payed off. The version she's created for Cafe Nordo is, I think, where the show wants to be. It's variously hilarious and moving, though all the glitz favors the comedy. That Porkalob had the ability to re-conceptualize a show to this degree speaks to the size of her creative mind and the tenacity of her spirit as a theater-maker.