Sideshow Theater Company
Book by: Roland Schimmelpfennig
Translated by: David Tushingham
Directed by: Jonathan L. Green and Marti Lyons
Featuring: Deanna Myers (young woman)
Daria Harper (older woman)
Matt Fletcher (young man)
David Lawrence Hamilton (man)
Noah Sullivan (older man)
RESTAURANT SERVES UP INNOVATIVE STYLE.
In addition to a traditional story, the playwright, Roland Schimmelpfennig, mixes fable, surrealism, physicality, narration…first, second and third person perspectives…and punctuates with some shocking images both literary and visual. He pushes the concept of “suspending disbelief ” a mile down the road, yet the play works beautifully. This all takes place in a brief hour and five minutes!
The first few minutes or so of “The Golden Dragon” burst at a frenetic disorienting pace, where you cannot quite catch all of the dialogue, and you hold back frustration trying to understand what is actually going on. Then the pace settles in not as a standard play or even scenarios, but rather small snippets of peoples’ lives.
Center stage contains the kitchen of the Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese restaurant where the five characters work and repeatedly re-enact the activities of a busy food establishment, taking the audience back and forth to a familiar place in the multitude of ongoing stories surrounding it. The kitchen acts as a fulcrum for entrances and exits to the various scenes scattered around the restaurant. It brings the audience back to familiar territory and then flings it out again into a previous scene with additional snippets of the prior setting. You taste a little of one plot, then another, then another, but always going back to the main pot, the kitchen. Occasionally, the dialogue grows tiring from repetition, but in such a short play, may be necessary to this innovative style.
As you may guess by the cast listing devoid of actual character names, the ensemble actors move as chess pieces in “The Golden Dragon”. Rather than actual characters portraying one story line, these bodies hustle around morphing in and out of many roles.
The success of this play comes if the audience member willingly lets the mind go with the flow. For example, in a scenario where the small young girl and older man play a couple; surprisingly, the young girl portrays the married man and the older man portrays the woman with no props or costume change. The tall black male actor portrays a young Caucasian blond woman. Acting needs to carry the day and the five excellent actors, especially Deanna Myers, rise masterfully to the occasion. The unusual castings force one to not only hear the words, but to more closely listen to the dialogue and meaning of the play.
“The Golden Dragon” is a different kind of play that you have not seen before. Schimmelpfennig draws you in with a gripping creative style, almost like German Expressionism, that stretches the imagination. Some images are raw and bizarre. Some you may never forget. Visit this small play but very large piece of humanity, and see if you don’t hunger to see more.
Date reviewed: January 23, 2014
Performances at: Victory Gardens Biograph – Richard Christiansen 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL
January 18, 2014 – February 23, 2014
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 3:00 p.m.
Regular Run Tickets are $20-$25.
Tickets available at www.victorygardens.org, or call (773) 871-3000, or visit
Victory Gardens Box Office.