Today I took the afternoon off and met my mom and friend Mary at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago to see The World of Extreme Happiness, a play by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig.
With an all-Asian all-star cast, the play tells the story of Sunny Li, a peasant girl born to unfortunate circumstances. At the age of 14, Sunny leaves her village to find work as a bathroom cleaner at a Shenzhen factory and dutifully sends all her money home. Broken in spirit, she’s unable to secure a promotion at the factory. That is until she meets Ming-Ming, another worker who attends self-help classes at night.
The story takes a downward spiral from there in the fashion of a traditional Chinese tragedy. I read a review that mentions the play tells of tragedies during the Cultural Revolution, but one of most the jaw-dropping moments takes place during a flashback to the Great Leap Forward.
It’s kind of ironic that I saw this play on the very day that peaceful protests turned violent in Hong Kong. At the end of The World of Extreme Happiness, we in the audience felt what can go wrong when protests turn nasty.
For more about the subjects in this play, check out the following books:
The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited by Louisa Lim
Factory Girls: From Village to City in Changing China by Leslie T. Chang