The Chinese Clown Cabaret

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About the Show



“Get Your Fringe On,” Montreal Hour, June 15th, 2006

The Chinese Clown Cabaret is surprisingly one of the most professional, intelligent and heartfelt shows the Fringe has to offer this year. Partly autobiographical, this amalgam of opera, Chinese folk songs and goofy clowning around presents Jane Chen, a Yale theatre graduate, and her real-life mother Tair, an ex-computer programmer, as they revisit Jane's Chinese/American childhood and the pressures that came with it. The juxtaposition between Jane's childlike character and her mother's is brilliant and adds an edge of realism and tenderness that otherwise would be hard to find. Not only is this show spectacularly well conceived, but the younger Chen's operatic abilities practically upstage the whole show. A gem!


"‘Fringe’ Benefits,” San Francisco Bay Guardian, September 14, 2005

ON OPENING NIGHT of the San Francisco Fringe Festival last week, the back room of Original Joe's restaurant, on Taylor Street, was abuzz with anticipation and cocktails ahead of the eight o'clock show, Elisa DeCarlo's Cervix with a Smile. Those who had been there for the first show were still high on Chinese Clown Cabaret, which rated "best clown show" at last year's festival and served up another ferociously silly hour of sandbox punk-rock ukulele and deadpan, angst-laced, in-your-face cuteness from the fearlessly talented Jane Chen and her real-life mom, Tair. A show capable of wonderfully unnerving ridiculousness, often rooted in a sly send-up of the kind of familial and cultural dynamics inherent in its mother-daughter team, Chinese Clown Cabaret is also far more sophisticated than it would have you believe.


"Women on the Verge," The Georgia Straight, September 7, 2006

San Francisco–based performer Jane Chen thought she was creating a solo show with The Chinese Clown Cabaret until the day she brought her mother, Tair Chen, to fill in as a stagehand at an important rehearsal. The mother and daughter take turns telling the story when we meet after their first performance in Victoria. “I was really nervous about this one rehearsal,” Jane recounts, “and my mom ended up coming to it.” {read the rest of this article}


"Fringe Reviews," VUE Weekly, August 24, 2006

This partly auto-biographical production is as silly as it is serious. Between child-like temper tantrums and various songs blasted out on a ukulele, there is plenty of clowning around to be had. Behind the scenes, however, this play is well-crafted experience with plenty of audience interaction and self-reflexivity. The real-life mother/daughter duo have a lot of fun combining Chinese folk songs with pop culture here, creating an experience all about growing up with different goals than your parents. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t crack a smile from this ingenious and fun production. It’s an uncomplicated song-and-dance visual delight.


"Fringe Reviews," Edmonton Journal, August 24, 2006

This is my kind of clown show... It's the relationship between them and the nutty charm they create together that make it quirky fun... Jane is the chief clown...with her mother standing by like a drill sergeant to keep her in line... It's bizarre but funny.


"A First Peek at Fringe Plays," Vancouver Georgia Straight, September 7, 2006

Mother-daughter team Tair and Jane Chen offers an act that's rife with silliness: ukulele songs, 2-D puppets, and stories of smelly sheep. But there are lots of surprises, like Mom's touching story of a childhood singing competition in Taiwan, and Jane's astonishing skill with an aria. Best of all is the interplay between them: Tair's naturalness is a lovely complement to the frenzy of Jane's hyperkinetic, childlike clown. They drive each other crazy as only a parent and child can. (When Jane pleads with her mother to let her do what the popular kids are doing, Mom says, “I don't believe in popularity” and Jane retorts, “But it exists!”) Yet they also share an unbreakable bond, and some of the show's most magical and moving moments come when their voices join in harmony.


Audience Review, Victoria Fringe Festival 2006

I was so profoundly moved by your show…At fifty-two years of age I am still longing to find expression of stifled dreams and your show has rekindled that deep sad sweet yearning to touch into who I truly am and to share that.


Audience Review, San Francisco Fringe Festival 2004

I felt more uplifted by this show than anything else I've seen at the Fringe and the good feeling it generated has carried over to the next day. Absolutely delightful, engaging, of those rare shows that helps you to feel how neat it is just to be alive...Has moved to the top tier of my favorites. This show is a jewish mother's dream. "So you can't take me on stage like Jane does with her mother...?"