Sarah J. Lau’s one-person show “The Secret Adventures of Fat Girl and Remedial Girl,” based upon excerpts from a novel she spent 10 years writing, easily qualifies as the most startling show I saw at the Rogue this year. That’s a good thing, and, well, maybe not such a good thing.
In a word, the show is harrowing, but in a very odd way. Told from the point of view of an 11-year-old girl growing up in a Chinese immigrant family in the Bay Area, you might expect a sentimental tale, especially when that tale meanders into the girl’s relationship with her aged grandmother. Not so. “She wasn’t the nicest person,” Louise tells us.
The story that ensues is shocking, acerbic, bewildering and a tiny bit moving, even though that last one kind of sneaks up on you. One strength of the show is the unreliability of the narrator. Children don’t always see the world in methodical narrative fashion, and Louise, in particular, doesn’t feel the need to stitch together events in a way that makes it easy for the audience to follow. In a way, the culture-clash issues raised obliquely by Louise are well suited to the chaotic nature of the storytelling; it’s like mushing a bunch of strands of narrative into that ubiquitous melting pot.
Another key aspect of the show is Lau’s distinctive delivery. Some people would call it uncomfortable to experience. As she contorts her slender limbs back and forth between little girl and surly octogenarian, her transitions between characters are not seamless. This is a show of long silences. It’s as if she adds two or three more beats between each line of dialogue than what you’d expect in the rhythm of normal conversation. It’s disconcerting but also dramatic.
Then there’s the question of continuity. Lau’s 90-minute show debuted at the San Francisco Fringe and won “Best of Fringe,” and this 60-minute version is sometimes hard to track. Still, I walked out after the show convinced I’d seen something completely original, if not always comfortable. That’s a heck of a lot better than boring.
Show info: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, 5:30 p.m. Saturday, The Tower Lounge. Rating: PG-13. [Details]