Wednesday, January 10, 2007

2 x 3

Loved this piece in today's Times, "Acclaim in China for Secret Love in Plum Blossom Land":

"Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land" is actually two plays that at first have seemingly little in common other than the artful, often hilarious conceit binding them together - a mistake that has led a theater to schedule simultaneous dress rehearsals for both shows.

The first play, "Secret Love" is a serious drama that opens in 1948 Shanghai as two young lovers, Jiang Binliu and Yun Zhifan (played by Huang Lei and Yuan Quan), bid each other a temporary farewell in a misty moonlit park. Images of war still torment Jiang [...] Fast-forward four decades and Jiang Binliu is an old man lying terminally ill in a Taipei hospital room, [...] still brooding over the past, desperate to see Yun Zhifan, from whom he was separated after fleeing the Communist takeover of China in 1949, before he dies.

The second play, "Peach Blossom Land," is a farcical interpretation of a well-known fourth-century story about a lost fisherman who stumbles into a utopian land filled with blossoming peach trees where all people live in harmony because they have no historical memory.[...]

Forced to share the same stage, the directors and casts of "Secret Love" and "Peach Blossom Land" argue over who needs the rehearsal space more, critique each other's performances, remove each other's props, and ultimately divide the stage in half and perform at the same time. Through these shared [...] the two plays slowly, almost magically, merge as their performers complete each other's lines and common themes emerge. But, by play's end when Jiang Binliu finally finds Yun Zhifan, who has been living in Taipei all along, the laughter gives way to sobs and the audience is left to contemplate the burdens of memory, history, longing and love - and the power of theater itself.

It reminded me of Out 1: Noli Me Tangere, the Jacques Rivette opus that Dizzyhead Dennis wrote about last year. From that piece:

Among other things, "Out 1" concerns the parallel efforts of two theater companies to put on Aeschylus plays ("Prometheus Bound" and "Seven Against Thebes"). Two oddball loners (Jean-Pierre Léaud and Juliet Berto) separately circle the groups. Characters change names and reveal secret identities. Living Theaterish rehearsals go on for ages. Connective tissue fills in, only to fall away. Mr. Léaud's character is the thickening mystery's self-appointed detective, fixated on cryptic messages about a 13-member secret society, a subplot that Mr. Rivette borrowed from the Balzac suite of novellas "History of the Thirteen."

And now I'm half-remembering a British play of 10 years ago (more? less?)—actually a joint production involving two plays taking place simultaneously at two different theaters, with actors/characters from one crossing the alley/street to appear in the theater of the other. Does this ring a bell with anyone? (At first I thought it might be a Michael Frayn play, but it doesn't look like that's the case.) It debuted in London; I think it came to New York—I'm not sure...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"house" and "garden" by alan ayckbourn at manhattan theater club in 2002. (but first they were in england)

2:41 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

That's exactly it! Thank you!

3:22 PM  
Blogger S. said...

Is PLUM for PEACH a secret clue?

11:12 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Oops! Alas, is simply a misidentification of fruits!

8:01 AM  

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