Sometimes, it’s just no good to be good. If there’s any lesson for the clueless jerk who thinks he’s a hero in the enjoyable new “Some Other Kind of Person,” that’s it.
Of course, he’ll never catch on. The guy — played wonderfully by David Ingram in fits of naïveté, bluster and misplaced heroics — is doomed to move through life simmering in his homemade stew of misunderstanding.
He’s the main character in Eric Pfeffinger’s play that considers labor arbitrage – outsourcing to cheap labor – plus Cambodia’s sex trade in women and children, the perils of overseas adoption, advanced business degrees, manufactured information and, most of all, misguided Americans. And it’s a comedy (no kidding), very funny in its script and in its world premiere production at InterAct Theater Company, which opened Wednesday night.
Paul Meshejian, who directs PlayPenn, a play development project in Philadelphia, directs “Some Other Kind of Person” as if it’s his own baby, just what any playwright would wish for. He stages it to bring out the ironies, and the character interpretations earn laughs as much as the script.
InterAct commissioned the play four years ago, all the while shepherding Pfeffinger through his drafts. The payoff: A solid script with a clean narrative arc and a constant tension amid the laughs. The story involves Bill, an American businessman who travels on his job to Cambodia to encourage people to provide cheap labor. He comes with a young colleague, a woman who is stunningly socially inappropriate in a nonchalant way (the excellent Nandita Shenoy), which allows her character to be the play’s truth-teller when she deals with Bill.
Because he is hapless, Bill finds himself one evening at a brothel without meaning to be, facing off with a coy and insistent madam (Bi Jean Ngo, who can easily act with her eyes alone, but does much more to make her character fine-tuned and funny). Bill ends up dealing with the madam to liberate one of the teenagers (Victoria Chau, aptly sullen). But what does liberation mean for a girl without any home or skills?
I didn’t even get to the emotional wreck of an American woman (a nuanced Brenny Rabine) who’s desperate to adopt a Cambodian baby. The plot layout may suggest that “Some Other Kind of Person” is a tome overloaded with themes and cultural issues, and it’s anything but that. Still, somewhere tangled in all the laughs sits a mirror, and it’s double-sided. Look at one side and we are all connected. Look at the other, we are all distinct.
“Some Other Kind of Person,” produced by InterAct Theatre Company, runs through June 23 at the Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom Street. www.interacttheatre.org or 215-568-8079.