'Hot Asian Doctor Husband,' Theater Mu’s take on race and romance, is hot (and hilarious)

Rich Ryan

Rich Ryan

Hot Asian Doctor Husband is one of the sharpest and funniest rom-coms to hit Twin Cities stages in years, but anyone expecting Leah Nanako Winkler’s world premiere to be a hot Asian When Harry Met Sally... will be surprised by the very first scene. Emi (Meghan Kreidler) is leaving her boyfriend Collin (Damian Leverett)—because he’s white.

Don’t call that “racist,” Emi immediately says to Collin, and by extension to the audience. She’s recently lost her Asian-American mother, we learn (her father was white), and it’s left her with the feeling that she needs to be with an Asian man to feel true to her identity. If that Asian man also happens to be a hot doctor, well, all the better.

It’s been only a year and a half since Theater Mu and Mixed Blood produced Winkler’s Two Mile Hollow, but any wait is too long for another show by this bold, wildly entertaining playwright. Under the direction of Seonjae Kim, Mu brings Winkler’s work once again to the Mixed Blood stage with a confident energy that does justice both to her slashing satire and the tender heart beneath it.

In addition to the ongoing drama between Emi and Collin, there’s a subplot involving a casual affair that’s rapidly becoming less casual, involving Emi’s BFF Leonard (Mikell Sapp, deploying irresistibly droll comic timing) and Veronica (a feisty and sympathetic Danielle Troiano). The show’s greatest conceit, though, is also its most conceited character: the eponymous Hot Asian Doctor Husband himself.

Eric Sharp has reliably excelled in numerous roles on various local stages, but he’s never had one this gloriously juicy, and he chomps on it with relish. The Hot Asian Doctor Husband, who doesn’t even require a proper name, addresses the audience with a placid smile and a coolly logical perspective on relationships.

The pediatric oncologist excuses his infidelities by citing loose social standards regarding “side pieces,” and by virtue of his profession: He literally saves children’s lives. How can he be the bad guy? A straight-faced solo dance by Sharp, exuberantly choreographed by Magnolia Yang Sao Yia, is one of those unforgettable theatrical moments you just have to experience for yourself.

Winkler’s challenge is that the show’s onstage shenanigans work so extraordinarily well, the play stumbles in its pivot to reveal that the most crucial relationship is actually the one between Emi and her mother (Sun Mee Chomet), unseen until a climactic dream sequence. The themes of that final sequence run through the entire show, but the scene’s tone is very different and it’s introduced by a jarring plot development, ending the play on a deliberately unsettled note. Might that stylistic twist have been more effective if it wasn’t quite so radical?

Regardless, Hot Asian Doctor Husband is a must-see: a moving and highly amusing play that squarely addresses the complex challenges of figuring out who you are in a relationship when society often doesn’t seem to acknowledge who you are as a person.

Hot Asian Doctor Husband
Mixed Blood Theatre
1501 S. Fourth St., Minneapolis
651-789-1012; through September 1