The Toronto Star Friday, July 3, 1998
Paper Son a moving tale of heritage
By Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter
At 94 plays and counting, Toronto's annual Fringe theatre festival demands a running start, which is what it got as 28 plays opened at seven venues last night.
Byron Yee calls himself a stand-up comic, but that description doesn't do the San Franciscan justice. Only a consummate story teller could have put together Paper Son to make a unique and moving tale out of an experience common to millions of first-generation North Americans.
"Paper son" was the name given to Chinese immigrants who came to America claiming to be the sons of landed Chinese men and women. As Yee tells it, his father entered the country in this way, married the daughter of a Chinese diplomat and fathered three American children. Yee grew up in Oklahoma and came to think of himself as "a white man in ethnic drag".
His 60-minute show spools backward through his own life as an actor, auditioning for a demeaning part as a Chinese waiter, to his investigations of his own heritage, and finally to his Chinese forebears.
This well-paced, polished performance is delivered with a gentle humour that never dulls the poignancy of Yee's story. The next performance of Paper Son at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse is tonight at 9.