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Franco Pang in No More Mr. Rice Guy at the Fresh Meat Festival in 2019. Photo courtesy of Fresh Meat.

Theatre Review: No More Mr. Rice Guy at Undercurrents—until Mar. 20

By Livia Belcea on March 19, 2021

I had the pleasure of seeing and reviewing No More Mr. Rice Guy in its early stages of development at the 2019 Fresh Meat Festival, so you can imagine my excitement when I saw it as part of this year’s undercurrents line-up. Even at home, sharing my audience experience with my cats instead of the Fringe theatre community, I was glued to my tablet and literally laughed out loud on countless occasions.

This witty comedy tells the story of a Canadian-born high school student of Chinese descent (Franco Pang) who enters a rap music contest in the hopes of fulfilling his dreams of becoming a famous rapper. The full-length world premiere of No More Mr. Rice Guy integrates all the ingredients that worked so well for its shorter format: the humorous references to Asian culture are innocent, the dialogue is original and quirky, and Franco is as skilled and exceptional as ever in his performance, even from what is presumably his bedroom in Richmond Hill.

And yet, despite the first part of the performance being virtually identical to its shorter 2019 version, with only a few pandemic and more recent pop-culture references standing out as new additions, this performance felt like a different play for two reasons: the new online format inevitably posed some adaptation challenges, and the overall message of this play, which is relatively dormant in the first part, becomes more prominent as we dive deeper into the aspiring Chinese-Canadian rapper’s journey.

Franco Pang in No More Mr. Rice Guy at the Fresh Meat Festival in 2019. Photo courtesy of Fresh Meat.

Ingenuity, determination and creativity are not lacking in this production.

While Alli Harris and Franco Pang originally created this play with the intent of presenting it in front of a live audience, they did a good job at adapting it to its online format. From the use of a second closeup camera to set the stage, to the inclusion of pre-recorded music video interludes, to a scene cleverly designed to depict Pang cycling through downtown streets, ingenuity, determination and creativity are not lacking in this production. However, despite understanding the challenges and conditions that forced this performance onto the virtual stage, the variations between the audio visual elements and their frequency distracted from the overall experience. Indeed, some of the pre-recorded segments differed significantly in video quality from one another and from the livestream. However, these technical blemishes can be overlooked as part of the COVID-19 symptoms the performing arts experience when adapting their work digitally.

But what really sets the full production of No More Mr. Rice Guy apart from its first adaption is that the play leapt beyond its comedic and entertaining qualities that defined the shorter Fresh Meat version and into a serious conversation about anti-Asian racism. As the story evolves, the protagonist is subjected to what some would call “microaggressions,” shame about his Asian heritage, and finally overt acts of race-based discrimination.

No More Mr. Rice Guy might make you laugh, but it will also remind you of the work our societies still have to do to become more just, equal, and safe for all human beings.

While I believe that the creators of No More Mr. Rice Guy included the conversation about Anti-Asian racism from the very beginning of their creative process, but did not showcase it explicitly in the 20-minute workshop version presented at Fresh Meat in 2019, this conversation is particularly relevant today, not only in the context of the global pandemic, but as horrifying acts of Anti-Asian racism continue to be committed in Ottawa and around the world.

No More Mr. Rice Guy might make you laugh, but it will also remind you of the work our societies still have to do to become more just, equal, and safe for all human beings.


No More Mr. Rice Guy is playing as part of the online undercurrents Festival. It is live-streamed from Richmond Hill, ON, with support from the technical team at Arts Court Theatre in Ottawa. The remaining performances are at 7pm on Friday, March 19 and at 8:30pm on Saturday, March 20. The play runs for 45 minutes. Information and tickets are available online at undercurrentsfestival.ca.