Last night I met my mom and friend Helen in Chicago to see a play at the Silk Road Rising Theater. The Hundred Flowers Project by Christopher Chen is advertised as an experiential performance.
Set in present time, it’s a play within a play. A theater company is performing a play about the Hundred Flowers Campaign in China, where Mao encouraged people to critique the Chinese Communist Party. As noted in this play, the People’s Republic of China at that time was a new country with no past.
But things would soon change after the Hundred Flowers Campaign, as the Anti-Rightist Campaign would go after those who criticized the party. Then the Great Leap Forward brought China into its worst famine in modern history (45 million dead in three years). That was followed several years later by the Cultural Revolution.
As the actors rehearse this play (starring Mao and Liu Shaoqi), they dive into their own craziness reminiscent of these Chinese political disasters. There was also mention of the Hong Kong protests, which was exciting.
I thought the acting was amazing, but the play a bit on the weird side. I could follow the parallels between the Cultural Revolution and the chaos in contemporary times. Maybe it was the experiential part that brought me out of my comfort zone.
And I guess that’s the point.
The Hundred Flowers Project is playing through November 23rd at the Silk Road Rising Theater, 77 West Washington, Chicago.