“Actors search for rejection,” Charlie Chaplin once said. “If they don’t get it, they reject themselves.” One wonders what Chaplin would’ve made of the thespians in Sides: The Fear Is Real, a most resilient group of actors who’ve turned their painful professional rejections into very funny comedy. This send-up of the world of auditions is culled (the program notes tell us) from actual horror stories experienced by the cast. As portrayed by the Asian American ensemble of Mr. Miyagi’s Theatre Company, the humiliation centers around racial typecasting, though not exclusively so. Anything vaguely acting related is fair game here. Lighthearted and, by design, scattered, Sides often registers like a collection of, ahem, side dishes without a main course. But it’s a testament to the actors’ full-throttle commitment and abundant elbow grease that by the end, this slim spectacle feels so comically satiating.
Arranged as a series of loosely connected sketches, Sides parodies the misfortunes that often befall eager-to-succeed actors: flubbed lines, stentorian delivery, and in one instance, butt sweat. Most of the skits hit their mark, and a few go beyond the call of duty, summoning a surprising pathos for the objects of their derision. The most memorable involve an unstable casting agent named Cass whose extreme commitment to her job sends her clients fleeing. (Standing a head above the excellent ensemble, Cindy Cheung deserves some sort of award for playing Cass with total physical abandon.) Uproarious though the proceedings are, one can’t help view the play as a form of self-administered psychotherapy for its cast. Apparently, actors not only search for rejection, but seek to relive it again and again. That none of it comes off as self-pitying is a minor miracle. The fear is real indeed, and so is the laughter that comes with it.