Artistic Director Charles Newell’s fine production affords us the opportunity to reexamine a twenty-six-year-old play that shocked and riveted audiences and critics alike with a study of sexual politics through the lens of the power struggle between the Oriental woman and the Western male. Protagonist Rene Gallimard (Sean Fortunato), a civil servant attached to the French embassy in Beijing, finds his Western masculinity threatened by his marriage to his Teutonic wife Helga (Karen Woditsch), who he is unable to get with child. His long-term love affair with the opera diva Song Liling (Nathaniel Braga) allows Gallimard the feeling of safety; he is awash in the then-prevailing notion that Oriental women, exotic and more than willing to be dominated by the masculine, Western male, never step outside their societally prescribed roles.
But playwright David Henry Hwang turns it all on its head by writing Song as a spy, capable of dominating Gallimard in every way; he is even able to convince Gallimard that his “modesty” requires that his sexual performances be costumed in full, traditional clothing. In these ways, Song covers both his intellectual and his sexual strengths with which he dominates Gallimard. Read the rest of this entry »