Theatre Matters

Contemplations on the dramatic arts from a national perspective


Steven Oxman has contributed to such publications as the Los Angeles Times, American Theatre, Stagebill, and, most frequently, Variety, for which he has written over 300 television and theatre reviews.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I'm back, I think

Wow. It's so easy for weeks to go by without posting. Blogging is hard. I am gaining more and more respect for those who do it diligently... and intelligently.

Anyway, I'm back in more ways than one. Just returned from a vacation to Hong Kong, where I caught the world premiere of a play called "Amber," commissioned from the National Theatre Company of China for the Hong Kong Arts Festival. It's by a woman named Liao Yimei, although the advertising emphasized the director, Meng Jinghui, whom the program labeled "the most influential among the young vanguard of Chinese theatre and film directors since the 1980s...." The play was in Mandarin with English subtitles.

It was certainly extremely interesting to see contemporary Chinese theatre. The underlying plot line was a bit cliche -- after the sudden death of her lover, a "pure", "innocent" young woman pursues the man who received a heart transplant from the woman's deceased paramour. The guy is a bit of a hustler, but he falls for her purity.

The play, at least as directed, always remained more concerned with the metaphor than with the reality of this situation. It was about big things, and sentimental things, and was ripe with all sort of literary allusions, both western and eastern. Unlike American theatre, the show certainly wasn't afraid of being pretentious and overtly intellectual, although I suppose that's what gave it the label "avant-garde." There were two reference that came into my head during the show, although neither is a perfect comparison by any means. Baz Luhrmann was one, on the directing side. It didn't have Luhrmann's visual flair, but it definitely had the combination of his sentimentality combined with artistic ambition, as well as his sense of the contemporary. The other comparison is Jean Anouilh, the French writer of "Madwoman of Chaillot." I can't articulate exactly what made me think so much of Anouilh, but I think it's the sense of everything being real and metaphorical at once.

Anyway, an interesting theatrical experience as part of a very nice break from the western world.