REVIEW: Bubble Tea Party (Stir-Friday Night)


Stir-Friday Night celebrates 15 years



Stir-Friday Night presents
Bubble Tea Party
Written/Performed by the Company
Directed by Pat McKenna
Chicago Center for the Performing Arts
777 N. Green St., Chicago (map)
Through Nov. 20  | 
Tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

It’s been 15 years since the late Quincy Wong and Keith Uchima founded Stir-Friday Night. The troupe got its start after a group of Asian-American actors met through Jade Monkey King, a musical Uchima created in 1995. The duo decided that Asian-American writers, directors and actors needed a bigger showcase.

"When you saw Asians on stage, they were the doctor guy, the second-banana guy," Uchima recalled at opening night of Stir-Friday Night’s 15th-anniversary revue. So the two men worked to found a company that would feature exclusively Asian-Amerians. Ultimately, that evolved into the sketch-comedy and improv troupe that’s still going strong – Stir-Friday Night.

This current group includes artists, mostly U.S.-born, who trace their heritage to India, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines. Their 15th-anniversary show, Bubble Tea Party, doesn’t show everything this company is capable of. Sketch-comedy revues tend to be uneven by their very nature — this one is more so than most.

The cast members all perform very well — when the show suffers, it’s in the writing. Some of the skits are lame — such as a recurring business about Olympic-style "Geisha Games" and an overlong, elaborate sketch of crude puns set in historic England; blue humor doesn’t seem to be this troupe’s strength. Other sketches start with interesting premises but never manage to come together, as in an odd piece that lampoons the Tea Partiers with an Alice in Wonderland theme and one in which a guy tries to convince his friend to eat 25 tacos in 60 seconds.

Undeniably, the company does its best work when it concentrates on the Asian-American experience. Two hilarious skits feature Amrita Dhaliwal playing an immigrant South Asian mother interacting with her American-born offspring.

The show follows up the scripted pieces with some improv, also with mixed results. The lineup isn’t set yet, but the company expects a few alumni to make guest appearances as well.

Stir-Friday Night deserves congratulations for its 15 years, and this show has enough funny moments to be worthwhile, but the troupe isn’t tapping the talent pool of Asian-American comedy writers deeply enough.

Rating: ★★

Ensemble: Melissa Canciller, Amrita Dhaliwal, Samantha Garcia, Erica Ikeda, Jin Kim, Christine Lin, Harrison Pak, Avery Lee and Jasbir Singh Vazquez



Harrison Pak / Artistic Director

Harrison Pak is the current Artistic Director of SFN. This show will mark the last of his revues with SFN as he travels off to LA next year. He’s very proud to have helped make SFN what it is today and very proud of the work of this organization. Harrison is a graduate of the Improv, Writing, Conservatory and Directing Programs at Second City. He wishes to thank his friends and family for their support.





Melissa Cancelor/ SFN Ensemble

A Chicago native,Melissa has performed throughout the city at The Second City, iO Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, BoHo Theatre, and The Silk Road Theatre Project.  In addition to being a proud ensemble member of Stir-Friday Night!, she is also a founding member of the comedy troupe Fool for Thought.  You may have seen her selling the heck out of Northshore Hospitals, Horseshoe Casino, Kentucky Lottery, and blogging the heck about all things yummy and sweet.  Sugar rocks!  Melissa hopes that everyone will support and enjoy the arts (of all kinds), especially the efforts of talented Asian-Americans everywhere. Gratuitous love to her amazingly supportive family and friends.


Neal Dandade / SFN Ensemble

Neal Dandade is thrilled to be a part of Stir Friday Night! Neal moved to Chicago in 2006 from outside Philadelphia, where he pretended to study theater and pre-med while performing with Vertigo-go, the improv group at Swarthmore College. Upon moving to Chicago, Neal trained at Second City, iO, and The Annoyance. He can also be seen performing with iO’s Front Row, DSI’s The Beatbox, and An Oak. When he’s not doing those things and/or cleaning his pantry, Neal is also an understudy for the Second City National Touring Company. Neal thanks his family and friends for all their love and support."


Jin Kim / SFN Ensemble

Jin (represented by Paonessa Talent – once played a virtuous woodcutter in a school play and has never looked back. The UNC graduate (Go Heels!) has performed with several companies and productions over the years, including The Awesome 80s Prom, iO (formerly ImprovOlympic), the Chicago Neutrino Project, the Playground, the Chicago Comedy Company, and Chemically Imbalanced Comedy. In addition to melting faces off with the talented members of SFN!, you can catch Jin performing improv at Laugh Out Loud, located in Schaumburg. Jin’s voice has also been featured in video games such as Mortal Kombat, John Woo’s Stranglehold, and NFL Blitz. Many thanks all around.


Christine Lin / SFN Ensemble

Christine Lin LOVES playing with Stir-Friday Night! A Chicagoland native and an unorthodox 5′ 8" tall, she has worked with Goodman Theatre, Silk Road Theatre Project, Halcyon Theatre, and SiNNERMAN Ensemble, and also plays with sketch comedy group Boss. She also acts in film/TV in roles such as the blind prostitute in R. Kelly’s masterpiece "Trapped in a Closet," chapters 18 and 19. Christine is a proud graduate of the Second City Training Center’s Conservatory Program for Improv and Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering and was once asked if she’s Mexican. (She’s not. Chinese, actually.) Joined in 2008. SFN! shows include "Horry Kow: That’s Lacist!" and "Rock Out With Your Wok Out!"


Amrita Dhaliwal / Featured Player

Amrita Dhaliwal was born & raised in the suburbs of Chicago. She spent a few years in Dallas, Texas, which she gives credit for her love of big hair. She later graduated with a B.S. in finance from UIUC – very rare for a first generation Indian, & extremely helpful when pursuing a career in acting. She returned to Chicago & immersed herself in improvisation, theatre & life training. She currently lives in Chicago as a full-time actor with her twin sister, Niti, & can be seen performing regularly on a myriad of stages. She is so grateful for Chicago’s heart driven artist community, the very special mentors along the way, & of course, her family & friends & Sweetie – without whom nothing in this world would be as sweet.!


Sam Garcia / Featured Player

Samantha Garcia is a proud graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and has lived and worked all over the world. Since making Chicago her home she has done a lot of cool projects. She is a company member with A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Company. Many thanks to SFN for being a really awesome group to be a part of.




Erica Ikeda / Featured Player

She is a recent Cum Laude graduate from the Theatre School at DePaul University with a BFA in acting.  Since she has graduated she has become a member of the Asian sketch comedy group, Stir Friday Night.  She has also appeared in an independent film called Far.  Erica is also a recognized Advanced Actor Combatant by the SAFD and has served as fight captain for numerous shows at the Theatre School.  In addition to performing at The Theatre School, Erica also performed in a bilingual play with the Wide Eyed Theatre Company in Japan.  Erica has trained in basic gymnastics and basic level belly dancing.  Recent credits from DePaul include: Electricidad (La Carmen), 1001 (Virgen, Maridah, Juml, Kuchuk Hanem), Midsummer Night’s Dream (Mrs. Quince, Pleaseblossom), Vinegar Tom (The Cunning Woman “Ellen”), A Street Car Named Desire (colored/Mexican woman, Nurse), Cyrano de Bergerac (Ragueneau/Valvert), Bud not Buddy (Case Worker, Librarian, #4). (Ragueneau/Valvert), Bud not Buddy (Case Worker, Librarian, #4).


Avery Lee / Featured Player

This is Avery’s first review with SFN. Avery is a graduate of The Annoyance and iO, where he performs with the team Classy D.







Jasbir Singh / Featured Player

Jasbir Singh is honored to be a part of SFN history. He is an Indian Argentinean American writer and improviser who has trained at Second City and iO Theater, performing with different comedy troupes around the Chicago area. He’d like to thank his parents for accepting his career choice and not forcing him to be a doctor or an engineer. Well at least not that much.





One Response

  1. […] this musical comedy group called The Cupid Players and had just finished directing [sketch group] Stir Friday Night. At the same time, I was given this theater space [the Theatre Building], and I wanted to do […]

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