The Group Rep Theatre Presents “The Chinese Wall” (Die Chinesische Mauer) through March 11. Written by Max Frisch, translated by James L. Rosenberg
Political satire is a bit of an American tradition. I’m English, so I’m all for it, and it’s certainly a daily occurrence in the UK. But the Americans have a certain flair for it, a passion if you will.
“The Chinese Wall” is not written by an American though. Max Frisch is actually Swiss, which is odd when you consider how “neutral” the Swiss pride themselves on being. It was written in 1946, safely after the war of course, and is basically about the horrible flaws of fascism, although the protagonist is a Chinese Emperor and his surreal empire is populated with a considerable number of historical figures…and not the good ones either. Napoleon, Pontius Pilot and Christopher Columbus, to name a few. All these characters are controversial of course and all of them consider themselves badly treated by history. They wander about, amusingly spouting off about the injustice of being misunderstood. Meanwhile, the Emperor has built a wall, a big, beautiful wall, to keep out the Barbarians and impress the rest of the world with its largeness. He holds a grand ball to celebrate and the stage is set.
L to R Patrick Skelton Kevin Hoffman Jr
Of course, there is a lot more going on, a daughter who won’t marry, her scorned lover determined to overthrow the evil empire and start an evil empire of his own, and a quizzical narrator who falls for the daughter and leads us through this maze of a play.
The cast members are great, all thoroughly enjoying their strange and illuminating meanderings. The set is beautifully handled, all multi-media video and cleverly manipulated staging. This really is a director’s piece, and director Larry Eisenberg performs the miracle of making this all make sense and maybe even change a few minds about our current political crises!
L to R Mark Atha Savannah Schoenecker Patrick Skelton
The Group Rep has cleverly replaced the Chinese Emperor with a wildly funny version of Trump, much to the audience’s delight. And his vileness and slithery platitudes propel the play into the orbit of delightful ridiculousness. In short, it’s a bit on the brilliant side of hilarious.
But be warned, this play takes no prisoners, political or otherwise, so leave your faintness of heart at home.
If you enjoy late night satire and bold, brazen, yet artful farce, then this is right up your outraged alley!
I highly recommend “The Chinese Wall.” Bring on the revolution!
lL to R Patrick Skelton Savannah Schoenecker
Running from January 26 through March 11
Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM, Sunday matinees at 2PM
Ages 18+. Some nudity and adult content.
The cast features the talents of:
Linda Alznauer, Brent Anthony, Mark Atha, Todd Andrew Ball, Cynthia Bryant, Cheryl Crosland, Michaela Delaney Guthrie, Kevin Hoffman Jr., Cynthia Howe, David Joseph Keller, John Ledley, Hisato Masuyama-Ball, Nick Paonessa, Hersha Parady, Savannah Schoenecker, Steve Shaw, Patrick Skelton, Caroline Stella, Gina Yates, and Sarah Zuk.
The Production and Design Team includes:
Michele Bernath (Choreographer), Chris Winfield (Set Design), Tor Brown (Lighting Design), Angela M. Eads (Costume Design), Steve Shaw (Sound Design), and Christian Ackerman (Video Projections). Todd Andrew Ball (Assistant Director), Hersha Parady (2nd Assistant Director), Ted Ryan (Production Stage Manager), Kathleen Delaney (Prop Mistress), Doug Haverty (Graphic Design), Judi Lewin (Makeup/Hair/Wig), and Doug Engalla (Production Photography & Videography).