Sideshow Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of CAUGHT Caught, written by Christopher Chen and directed by Seth Bockley, plays May 29 May 29 – July 3, 2016 at Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago.
Victory Gardens Theater 05/29–07/03
As you enter the theater, you see a little gallery on stage, dominated by a sculpture made of Chinese food boxes. People are milling around and drinking wine as at an opening. Once the audience sits, Chinese dissident artist Lin Bo, whom the play is based on, is introduced and talks about his art project, an “imaginary protest,” that got him arrested and held for two years in a prison with terrible conditions.
The scene goes on long enough, though, and the artist’s actions seem rehearsed, so that we’re wondering if this actually is the play. In the scene that follows, the artist (Ben Chang) is profiled by the New Yorker, and when they do some retroactive fact-checking, his story begins to unravel. A friendly chat turns into a benign interrogation as the writer (good cop Ann James) and increasingly hot-headed editor (Bob Kruse) pull the threads, linking Lin’s story to other popular accounts of Chinese prisons.
In the next scene the author of the play (Wang Min, also an actor, we realize), attempts to connects the dots between the parts of the play, claiming it interrupts “the chain of appropriation” of the narratives of Chinese dissidents.
She is pretentious and pompous, an artist’s trope, but also surprisingly subversive as she delves into the difference between truth in art and journalism, and stories’ migration through different channels of American media, including This American Life. In a very funny bit she turns everything the interviewer says back on her. “It is not about getting it or not getting it,” she says, lulling her into a state of resignation.
The play ends with two friends discussing their relationship with another artist who was killed in prison, who’d been the inspiration for the piece we were now watching. This part alone felt a bit tacked-on, and slowed the pace at the end (never a good thing).
But this multi-genre presentation does effectively investigate the bounds of truth in art through theater, while it also draws the audience’s interest in working out what’s happening. In this way it is reminiscent of Doubt, or Six Degrees of Separation, but without any real menace or stakes. It was a very intellectual affair, but I wouldn’t hold that against it.
“Caught” will continue through July 3, with performances as follows:
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets range from $20-$30 (students, Seniors and industry $5 off)
Buy tickets at www.victorygardens.org, (773) 871-3000, or in person at the Victory Gardens Box Office, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Caught”