Review: "Emil Amok" Spans Generations, Voices, and Identities

Emil Amok: Lost NPR Host, Wiley Filipino, Vegan Transdad

Written and performed by Emil Amok Guillermo

Presented at UNDER St. Marks

94 St. Marks Place, Manhattan, NYC

April 5-21, 2024

Emil Amok Guillermo. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Weaving together biography with the twentieth-century history of American colonialism in the Philippines, Emil Amok: Lost NPR Host, Wiley Filipino, Vegan Transdad is part stand-up comedy, part pathos-infused monologue. In the production, Emil tells the story of his father’s immigration to the United States and subsequent exclusion from American society as well as his own life as a white-sounding first-generation American whose seeming successes in graduating from Harvard and in broadcast journalism are belied by more subtle but nonetheless very present racism and discrimination. Emil Amok is part of the 2024 New York City Fringe Festival, which features 46 plays over multiple venues and gives 100% of its ticket sales to its artists. Additionally, a portion of profits from this show will benefit the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) for its 50 years fighting for AAPI civil rights issues.

Emil’s performance successfully runs the gamut from comedy to tragedy as he cleverly juxtaposes the accented English of his father with his own voice, highlighting the role that voice plays in the ability of immigrants to assimilate into American society. Sounding “white,” however, only goes so far, as evident in the challenges that Emil faces throughout his life just the same. Emil is at his most endearing in the production when he discusses his family, particularly his daughter and her gender transition. In a moment that feels entirely unscripted, Emil corrects himself at one point when he accidentally refers to his daughter as his son, vowing that he will do everything he can to protect her from a society in which she is not fully accepted.

The production centers on an etymology lesson involving Emil’s middle name, Amok, a largely unacknowledged Filipino contribution to the English language. And indeed, as he declares towards the play’s conclusion, this is Emil run amok. From dad jokes to reflections on his evolving role as a dad to a trans woman, from his lighthearted jabs at his father’s accented-English to his serious consideration of the damage wrought by American colonialism, Emil successfully covers a range of topics in his hour in the spotlight.

-Stephanie Pietros


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