A play by David Henry Hwang
Directed by Peter Rothstein
Tyrone Guthrie theater, Minneapolis
Two plays in one month! There may still be hope that I may become a fully acculturated homo sapiens yet. This play is a cultural mash-up, merging elements of sexual obsession, colonialism on a backdrop of Puccini's Madame Butterfly. Loosely based on a true story of a French diplomat who had a twenty year relationship with a Chinese Opera singer he thought was a woman, a singer who was actually a man and a spy for the Chinese! Truth is truly stranger than fiction.
There is an odd thing about other people's obsessions. They are, by definition, all-encompassing for the obsessed- whether the obsession is a person, a drug, or any passion that completely overtakes one's life (did I hear someone say Iceland?) They are usually of limited interest to a neutral observer.
This is the problem with this play. The diplomat's (Rene Gallimard, played by Andrew Young) devotion to the opera star (Song Liling, played by Randy Reyes) is founded on an idealized conception of the oriental woman- submissive, exotic, mysterious. The play also brings up the idea of the West seeing the Orient in the same fashion. It is all a bit much. That said, the play itself was enjoyable, the cast (as usual at the Guthrie) excellent, although the staging was a bit on the sparse side. The play picked up momentum in the second half, with a most revealing climax from the Song Liling character!
My blog pal Rose was in town for the weekend, and I was able to sit with her and her husband and her in-laws. (Thanks Rose!)