September 14, 1998
'Red': Drama of depth and complexity
Intiman Theatre's world premiere of Chay Yew's new play, "Red," is an intriguing drama that intertwines politics, tradition and familial ties.
Set in present day, as well as in the recent past of China's brutal Cultural Revolution (mid 1960s-1970s), Yew combines history with a personal story of human struggle aginst adversity.
The play explores the relationship between a proud Beijing opera star, Hua (played with elegant dignity by actor Sab Shimono), who is accused of crimes against the state and Lin (Michi Barall), a young woman eager to learn the art form from Master Hua, but who gets caught up in the revolutionary zealotry of the time. Against this backdrop enters Sonja Wong (Jeanne Sakata), a successful Chinese-American romance author who returns to her homeland to do research for a novel on the life of Hua who was ultimately purged in the revolution. Yew brings to light the disastrous, tragic consequences of Mao's Cultural Revolution where whole forms of artistic expression were banned and artists ruined. It was a time where politics took over art, and age-old traditions were abolished. There is an undercurrent of mystery throughout the show as hidden truths are slowly revealed.
Shimono and Sakata handle their roles with sophistication and style, lending credibility to their characters. Barall comes across too strident at times when she is spouting her Red Guard propaganda. Rachel Hauck's sparse, red and black set design is striking and the use of open peek-a-boo doorways works well to show different actions occurring at the same timer. "Red" is a show of much depth and complexity, though at times the web that is spun causes some confusion, along with the alternating time period changes. The show does leave audiences with an understanding of the power of art and an appreciation for artists who must endure in adverse times.
"Red" runs through Sept.26. For ticket information call 206-269-1900.