Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review of Chimerica at Timeline Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Chimerica. It was by Lucy Kirkwood and it was directed by Nick Bowling. It was about a photojournalist named Joe Schofield (Coburn Goss) who had taken these pictures of this man who was standing in front of a tank in China holding some bags after the Tiananmen square massacre. They were called the tank man pictures, and he wanted to solve the mystery of who the Tank Man was. Zhang Lin (Norman Yap) is the reporter's friend and he still lives in China. He's helping him find out who the tank man really is but he is also dealing with the death of his wife and his life is not great because the government is angry at the people who protested and are still looking for them, especially the ones who say that they still want things to change. This show is about making your mark on history, how just because people aren't getting hurt or tortured where you are doesn't mean it is not happening anywhere, and the dilemma of the photographer that when you are watching something terrible happening you just take pictures of it instead of putting down your camera and helping. I thought that this was a very powerful show and I took a lot away from it. I started reading a book about Tiananmen Square because I was very intrigued and I needed to learn more about this because I had never heard about it before. I feel like it is good I found out about it because it made me more aware of what is happening in China now and what happened in the past.

I thought that it was really cool and interesting that the focus really shifted a lot in the show. At first you are focused on the American reporter, but then halfway through the first act it shifted to Zhang Lin because I found his story more compelling. The play is structured for you to think that it is Joe's story, but Zhang Lin's story is very interesting and had more impact on me. And you find out that Zhang Lin has been keeping a secret throughout the show and that a lot of scenes you didn't know were about him were actually about him. I liked how the story could be about both people instead of it just being about a white person's experience with Chinese people. I feel like the show did a great job giving both perspectives.

There is a gorgeous but very sad love story between Zhang Lin when he was younger (Dan Lin) and Liuli (Janelle Villas) and that was one thing that made his story more compelling to me. A lot of my favorite scenes were with them; they were insanely talented actors. I really believed them. I believed they were really in love and I believed their pain and I felt very sad for them. There is this terrifying element where Liuli came out of the older Zhang Lin's refrigerator. There is a backstory that they met by her coming out of his refrigerator after he just bought it. I found that very touching that his first memory of her kept coming back to him.

Americans can easily get caught up in their own problems, and forget that bad things are happening in other places. I think that the writer definitely wanted to draw attention to this. Tessa (Eleni Pappageorge) is a British woman who analyzes people's shopping habits and there was this scene where she and Joe were kissing, while next to them on stage Zhang Lin was being tortured. I feel like they were trying to make the point that you are having a great time over here in America but in China this guy is having a truly terrible day. Also, Frank Hadley (H.B. Ward), who was Joe's boss, just blows over all these pictures of people suffering and only thinks, "Will these be good for selling papers?" I liked that character, though, he was very funny. I think the writer has sympathy for Americans but she is still criticizing us, which I think is fair. I think it is more effective when characters you like have flaws because you can't really just hate them; you have to listen to them. There was a man named Peter Rourke (Tom Hickey) who was taking care of his child and he used to be a reporter and Joe was asking for his help. But with the child distracting him, he couldn't really help much. I don't think it is a bad idea to take care of a child, but your life does totally change. That is another example of people getting caught up in their own life and not being able to pay attention to what is going on around them.

People who would like this show are people who would like adorable but depressing love stories, difficult questions, and refrigerators. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I didn't even get to talk about a lot of the things I liked. The acting was all amazing. I thought the show was beautiful and it really made me think a lot.

Photos: Lara Goetsch

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