Hit, the aggressively funny farce by lauded playwright Alice Tuan, careens through issues of cultural diversity, global capitalism, social responsibilities and extended adolescence in Los Angeles, with an unforgiving aim and an insistence on shunning easy answers.
It begins with Kim (Kahyun Kim), an Angeleno of partly Korean ethnicity, as she zooms through traffic, belting out Cher's “Half-Breed” with much gusto and too little concern for where she is headed. Young, seductive and angry, Kim recklessly drives through her life. ]
She collides, literally and then romantically, with Mank (Justin Huen), a sensitive New Yorker who's trekked cross-country in hopes of tracking down the elusive woman who stole his heart back east before lighting out for parts west. To pass the time, he pours drinks at a local bar and audits an economics class coincidentally taught by Sharon Maywell (Carolyn Almos), the accomplished professor and emotional black hole who adopted Kim when she was 10. Sharon has spent the past 22 years trading food for love while carrying on a tempestuous relationship with Luc (Lenny Von Dohlen), an impractical Frenchman disgusted by L.A.'s vacuousness yet suffering from his own delusions of grandeur. For years, he has also been justifying to himself the affair he's secretly been having with Kim.
That last bit is just a little too much for Serena (Taylor Hawthorne), Kim's best friend since childhood. She has recently arrived back in town after being fired from her post as a diversity officer at an elite East Coast prep school. The play's moral center, Serena couldn't stomach the token quality to the school's façade of multiculturalism, in much the same way that Sharon fumes that the cult of free market capitalism has crowded out intellectual diversity in economics. As is pointedly observed, “white” comes in all colors now.
The plot kicks into high gear when Serena decides everyone needs to grow up a little. Though hiding her own secrets and not above a little manipulation when it suits her, Serena ultimately won't shy from truths, harsh as they may be. What looks like sexual freedom to Kim can look much like an instant-gratification tantrum to someone attuned to the consequences of ruthless self-indulgences.
There is an epic sweep to Tuan's machinations, the stylized pronouncements that flow from her characters and their seething needs, all tightly coiled under Laurel Ollstein's intense direction. But the play's heightened reality works better in the first act, before Tuan's many weighty ideas begin to overpower her characters. It's a flawed play but its ambition alone makes it consistently compelling.
Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., dwntwn.; through June 8. (866) 811-4111, www.thelatc.org.