This play was written in 1946 by Swiss writer Max Frisch, after Hitler and World War II, triggered by his reflections on fighting fascism and warnings about the coming atomic age and other dangers of the world political arena.
By Carol Edger Germain
The setting is China in 220 BC (approximately) during the reign of a tyrannical Emperor, Tzhin Zhe Huang Ti (well played by Mark Atha) . But it explodes crazily from that base like the tendrils of a giant fireworks display, branching off into various times in history, bringing in historical characters randomly, including Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Christopher Columbus, and Pontius Pilate, letting us witness their farcical failures as they fizzle out like the dying fireworks.
All the while, a character known as “the Contemporary”(Patrick Skelton), scrambles about warning the characters of the perils of war, and specifically the atom bomb (thus he is a contemporary of the writer’s time, not our time, even though the Emperor is clearly impersonating our current President in looks and personality traits), but most are too oblivious to heed his warnings. Meanwhile, the Emperor scurries about trying to identify and punish the “Voice of the People,” who he determines must be Wang the mute (John Ledley). If you are getting confused trying to follow the story, then you are getting the gist of the experience of seeing this play.
It is a comedy, tragedy, satire, and farce, with historical references. It is rather messy, and at one point the audience is suddenly blamed for standing mute in the face of all these warnings of peril. The lines relating to current political issues, although bitingly satirical sometimes, could have been a little less explicit and repetitious.
What saved it and makes it worth experiencing is the visual experience. The staging, hilarious projections of Trump, lighting, costumes, and multi media staging give the audience plenty to look at and enjoy even if the characters take a bit too long to get their point across. Also, there is plenty of acting talent on the stage, 20+ characters handled by a very capable cast, and I look forward to seeing many of them in future productions.
The Chinese Wall
• Directed by Larry Eisenberg
• Produced by Lloyd Pedersen
(Includes brief nudity)
Lonny Chapman Theater
10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA
Small parking lot adjacent to theater. Street parking available.
• Now through March 11
Fridays and Saturdays 8 pm, Sunday at 2 pm
(with a talk-back with the cast after the 2/25 performance)
• General admission: $25 (with senior and other discounts)
(discount tickets also available @ goldstar.com)
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