Less than a week ago I was a Fringe virgin, tentatively taking my seat as I prepared to see a show about elementary school crushes and Hallmark Valentines stamped Return to Sender. Four shows later, I can almost call myself a savvy Fringer, flashing my badge and glibly leafing through my press packet as I wait for the curtain to go up.
How fitting, then, that my latest — and last — blog subject is a one-woman show about women who are highly skilled at the art of love — or rather, satisfying men. Nancy Eng’s THE WOMEN OF TU-NA HOUSE is a moving and at times heart-crushing show about the workers at an Asian massage parlor that doubles (not-so-secretly) as a brothel. From the madam whose constancy lands her a brownstone in New York to the worker who can’t stop crying after her cat dies (and whose tears earn her a generous tip), the stories are moving and gritty and real.
Too real for the not-so-savvy Fringers out there? Not at all: interspersed with stories of desperation and truncated hopes is humor. Lots of it. As a matter of fact, Nancy Eng manages to weave so much wit into these women’s yarns that we almost see these characters as friendly aunts, dispensing age-old advice on men and sex and life. Never mind how they arrived at it, their vista from the baser level of human existence earns them a certain wisdom that asks — demands — us to take note.
And we do. How can we not? In addition to being a deft storyteller, Eng is a skilled actress, a chameleon as she moves from one character to the next. She has quite a few up her sleeve, but each one feels new. Unlike her characters’ encounters, there’s no wham-bam repetition in these characters or their tales.
In the end, just like the Tu-Na House customers, everyone — sophisticated and naive Fringers alike — will leave feeling satisfied.