By Lucy Kirkwood
Directed by Nick Bowling
At TimeLine Theatre, Chicago
Epic play an ambitious mystery
British playwright Lucy Kirkwood has penned a three-hour mystery-drama, Chimerica, centered on the events of June 5, 1989, when a man stood in front of three tanks to protest military intervention in a student protect. We meet photojournalist Joe Schofield (Coburn Goss) who, from his hotel room, took photos of the man standing in front of the tank.
Move forward to 2009 when Schofield and his fellow journalist, Mel Starwyck (Chris Rickett), are headed to China to cover events there. On the plane, they meet British corporate executive Tessa Kendrick (Eleni Pappageorge) who proceeds to drink away her fear of flying via gin. Joe helps her cope with her “white-knuckle” tendencies. The China adventures begin. Joe and Mel pitch a story to their editor about finding and re-visiting the Tank Man from Joe’s photo. The quest for this story obsesses those two, especially Joe.
Over the next three hours, the mystery takes Joe to Beijing and New York City as he tries to find the Tank Man with the help of his Chinese friend Zhang Lin (Norman Yap), an English professor in Beijing. Chimerica keeps moving swiftly with an ambitious use of video to depict China and New York City. I never fully bought Joe’s obsession with the Tank Man story, especially when his editor nixed it. Why?
I also thought that the independent, crusading photojournalist stereotype that was Joe had to have an affair only because playwright Lucy Kirkwood needed to superimpose her British point-of-view on the Chinese-American economic dynamic. I enjoyed the Chinese perspective from Zhang Lin’s character, which Norman Yap deftly presented. I only wonder why Lin didn’t help Joe’s search with the complete truth. Why the mystery was solved in the manner presented here?
I must say that the strongest parts of this work lies in the observations into the lifestyle of contemporary Chinese and their government. We quickly realize that we Americans know so little about 21st Century China. Chimerica opens that door a tad.
Date Reviewed: May 14, 2016
For more info checkout the Chimerica page at theatreinchicago.com
At TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington, Chicago, IL, call 773-281-8463