Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hundred Flowers Blooms Great Reviews

The reviews for Christopher Chen's The Hundred Flowers Project [co-produced by Crowded Fire and Playwrights Foundation] are just sweeping in. As the show is in it's opening weekend at the Thick House and you're ordering your tickets, check out these great reviews from Chad Jones of Theater Dogs and Robert Hurwitt of the SF Chronicle.

From Chad Jones at theaterdogs.net

Christopher Chen's The Hundred Flowers Project
Photo by Pak Han

If Apple or some other high-tech giant was really smart, really forward thinking, they’d head down to the Thick House and check out the West Coast premiere of Christopher Chen’s The Hundred Flowers Project, a play that not only has a lot to say about our instantly archived society and its millions of digital histories but also utilizes technology in a fascinating way.
There’s something utterly primal about the premise of this Crowded Fire/Playwrights Foundation co-production: members of a San Francisco theater collective gather to create, in the most organic, zeitgeist-melding way, a dazzling piece of theater about the life and rule of Mao Tse Tung that has deep metaphorical connection to our own times. These theater folk are pretentious – the words “zeitgeist” and “congealing” are used so often they may cause indigestion – but they’re also real artists trying to create something new and interesting and meaningful.

Their leader, Mel (Charisse Loriaux), invites everyone to continue adding ideas to the group Google Doc, and as she incorporates those ideas, along with those inspired by group discussion, the actors read the updated text from their smart phones while they rehearse. The tech aspect of the show, involving dramatic lighting (by Heather Basarab) as well as live and pre-recorded video (designed by Wesley Cabral), is also created on the fly (it’s more organic that way, naturally).
Every once in a while, something weird happens. A big sound erupts (sound design byBrendan Aanes), the cast goes through a jerky modern-dance-like spasm (Rami Margron is the movement coach), and reality has shifted. At first these shifts take us more speedily through rehearsal so we can catch up on all the gossip like who used to sleep with whom and what the real power dynamics are in this collective.
But then the shifts start to get more serious as we experience more of the play and begin to see how Mao’s rule, likened to a work of theater itself, really does have parallels in a modern world where we create, share and, perhaps most importantly, edit our own histories as we’re living them.
Click Here to read Chad's full piece.
From the Robert Hurwitt at the San Francisco Chronicle:
From Chris Chen's The Hundred Flowers Project
Photo by Pak Han
WILD APPLAUSEIf you feel reality shifting beneath your feet early in Christopher Chen's "The Hundred Flowers Project," just relax and enjoy the ride. Those earthquakes are most likely part of the play. And two hours of hairpin-turn paradigm shifts make for some very exciting theater in the world premiere that opened Monday at Crowded Fire Theater's new Thick House home.
Call it "Six Characters in Search of a Zeitgeist." "Flowers" follows six actors - or five members of an experimental company and one interloper - as they try to create a play about Mao Zedong that will be meaningful in 21st century America. By the end, their play-within-a-world-within-a-play has brought Pirandello storming the 21st century boards with unsettling comic twists.

Developed and produced with Playwrights Foundation, "Flowers" revels in a mixed-media meta-theatricality that unfolds its unexpected twists with sharp clarity. As the live and onscreen action spins out of control, Chen and director Desdemona Chiang keep the themes and possible plots fully accessible.

The action is taking place as we enter the theater. Actors are showing up for rehearsal and loosening up on Maya Linke's deceptively inchoate set of theater detritus. Mel (Charisse Loriaux), the group's director, is busy at the control board. Julie (Cindy Im), the outsider - new wife of lead actor Mike (Wiley Naman Strasser) - sits self-consciously to one side.

She's there partly because she's interested in the concept of the new work - Mao and the Cultural Revolution - and partly because Mike's ex, Lily (the fiery, committed Anna Ishida), is part of the company. But as the troupe, known for its collaboratively created pastiches, wrestles with how to depict the pervasive social upheaval of the Cultural Revolution in contemporary terms, all their personal relationships, the company's internal dynamics and reality itself get caught up in a Kafka-meets-Orwell world.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/performance/article/The-Hundred-Flowers-Project-review-3994022.php#ixzz2AqYZxCLV


The Hundred Flowers Project By Christopher Chen. Directed by Desdemona Chiang. Through Nov. 17. Crowded Fire TheaterThick House, 1695 18th St., San Francisco. www.crowdedfire.org

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