“Kung Fu” is a classic (some might sneer cliché) showbiz saga about an unlikely nobody who dreams of Hollywood stardom. Tailor it around the legendary Bruce Lee, however, and the hoary scenario assumes fresh cultural meanings. Bouncing off author David Henry Hwang’s smooth, stylish storytelling, director Leigh Silverman’s production unleashes a series of rowdy rock-‘em-sock-‘em martial arts sequences that are beautiful and seem extremely realistic.
Premiering on Monday at the Pershing Square Signature Center, “Kung Fu” is a winning event for those audiences who love red-hot theatricality as much as it is for fans who love Bruce Lee. Along the way of dramatizing the action star’s life, Hwang thoughtfully addresses issues about masculine Asian identity in the United States. The result is a smart, entertaining bio-drama about a cool guy who overcame racial obstacles with brilliant bursts of kinetic genius.