A Stimulating Experimental Hundred Flowers Project

Local playwright Christopher Chen’s world premiere of The Hundred Flowers Project presented by Crowded Fire Theatre Company and the Playwrights Foundation opened at the S.F. Thick House on October 29.th For the past three years Chen’s piece has had several readings and rehearsals during which the actors likewise collaborated with their improvisational findings collectively discovered .

The play’s content, at times realistic and at other times surreal and abstract, is performed by an excellent cast of multi national actors under the direction of Desdamona Chiang to depict Mao Tse Tung’s efforts to modernize China in order to appease the masses. The use of propaganda in China’s revolution is compared with the 21st century modern multi media ‘s influence on Western masses. But as this sociopolitical content develops it soon finds itself turning inward to the personal relationship of one couple, Julie and Mike. The play then continues to form its shape like a play within a play.  It fortunately takes on more human interest when we are drawn into this rapport between Julie (Cindy Im) and Mike (Wiley Namen Strasser) married and in love but also in conflict as to which direction the play’s development should be going. Mike disdains Julie’s preference for a narrative structure and soon deceives her with his ex Lily (Anna Ishida). This conflicted relationship will bring us to a point where Julie is looked upon as a martyr who is nonetheless considered essential to the play.

The playwright’s intention “to mingle technology with history” is realized through a comparison of Mao’s attempts to create a cultural revolution to pacify his masses with our “chaotic Facebook-a-tized mass consciousness.” The set (Maya Linke) resembles a backstage with pieces of scenery lying about along with the use of projections and other technology that intensify the playwright’s message.

The director and actors successfully concretize the abstract and surreal quality of this play. They accomplish this regarding the play’s content as well as its form that they are free to continually spin before us in the spirit of experimentation.

 Thw Hundred Flowers Project is a stimulating project that poses a multitude of questions concerning the path of experimental theatre as well as that of our globalized world continuing to evolve in Chen’s words “in a reality that is constantly shifting and redefining itself.”

The Hundred Years Project plays through  November 17th/

For information and tickets call 415-746-9238 or visit www.crowdedfire.org

Annette Lust