Most little girls wish to be seen as cute, popular, and smart. They want to receive positive attention. They want to have lots of friends and fun things to show off to them like cute clothes, toys, and makeup. In Julia Sun’s case all she ever wanted was “to look nicer than I was.”
Sun’s solo show, Acute…Girl, which she wrote and in which she performs a variety of characters, draws on her life. The play opens when Sun is just about to turn 10. She relates that her dad used to tell her “that as soon as you acknowledge your flaw, nobody can use it against you.” Sun’s flaw is wanting to be popular and to look prettier. She goes out of her way to get in the popular circles at school. She allows her “best friend” Stephanie Trimmer and the other “Glamour Squad” girls to copy from her homework so she can sit with them during lunchtime at the popular table. Being from a low-income family and around a grandfather who “believes paying attention to one’s appearance is almost like a cardinal sin” means that getting a “baby pink Hello Kitty watch” for her 10th birthday wasn’t going to happen.
As Sun’s story progresses, she moves into a new school district in sixth grade and the urge to be popular, noticed, and prettier just keeps getting stronger. She takes hand-me-downs from Stephanie before her move, proclaiming that in the next chapter of her life she is going to be seen as stylish. It works. She is asked out by David Cohen, the most popular guy in middle school, who tells her, “I need to get a library card because I am checking you out.” She is once again associated with the cool kids, although it still doesn't feel like she had earned the title of truly being popular.
In high school she decides that she is going to prove to herself that she can be popular all on her own, without anyone else’s status to cling to. She gets a job behind her parents’ back at the “Vidal Sassoon Hair Salon” as a receptionist. It allows her to get free haircuts and styling as well as meet the man who tells her that she can make it as a model. She earns money so she can be coached in modeling and for costume wear for the Miss Teen America competition.
After all of her hard work over the years, Sun reports, she is now a TV commentator in New York City. “I get to be prettier whenever I want now,” she says. “I’m the blonde now, so who cares if I’m not put-together in the subway?” Sun’s retelling of her life’s major events is done with humor and a sweetness that is carried throughout. The costume choice of Sun’s ninth-grade self—black ballet flats, pink tutu-like skirt, and tiara—give her an air of innocence. Under the direction of Christine R. Miller, Sun takes on many different physical levels with her body and finds mannerisms to make each of the characters distinct. Most impressive is when she mimics a ballet performance, finalizing the dance sequence with fully extended splits. However, Sun’s French accent could use some work.
Sun’s show is a no-frills, no-fuss show, yet another commonplace story of a young girl growing up in American society and reaching for celebrity. Sun conveys to the audience that she takes charge of her “flaw” and the way she becomes popular in high school. She goes from relying on other people to make her feel popular to making life decisions that helped her get to where she is now: a confident local celebrity who no longer worries about how she looks every day because she is known as a beautiful woman. She has a team of people to make her beautiful whenever she wishes.
There is, however, a major gap in Sun’s story. How is it that she went from being in high school and participating in the Miss Teen America Competition to being spotted as a local celebrity in the New York subway? How did Sun end up in New York, when she is originally from San Francisco? It seems as if the time limit imposed by the FRIGID festival has forced Sun to end her play in a disjointed, abrupt manner. Perhaps she will expand the show with the missing details if she decides to perform it again.
Although Sun's story is fun and fluffy, the show could be improved with more deeply developed characters and profound life experiences.
Acute…Girl can be seen at the Kraine Theater (85 East 4th St.) through March 3, at 8:50 p.m.Tickets are $15-$18 and are available at tinyurl.com/AcuteGirlTickets or at the theater beforehand. This show is part of the 10th annual FRIGID Fest more info at www.frigidnewyork.info.