Reviewed by Terry Morgan
Think Tank Gallery
Through December 10
The subject of deception and the malleability of truth couldn’t be more timely. When the highest levels of government and entire media organizations such as Fox News are openly lying to the populace every day with few consequences, the very value of facts or being truthful comes into question. Emerging from this morass like a lovely, opaque bubble is Christopher Chen’s brilliantly tricky Caught, which has been given an outstanding immersive production by Firefly Theater & Films and Vs. Theatre, in association with Think Tank Gallery in downtown L.A.
A lot of the fun in this play is in how one scene or character connects to the other, so I’ll try to be somewhat vague in the plot recap so as not to spoil that here. A magazine writer, Joyce (Jessica Kaye), does a fact-checking meeting with an author. As we explore the gallery exhibition, a dissident Asian artist, Lin Bo (Louis Ozawa Changchien), discusses his work and his time in a Chinese prison. Finally, a theatre writer, Wang Min (Jackie Chung), refuses to give straight answers to any questions.
Changchien, who appears in most of the scenes in one guise or another, impresses throughout, his characters gracefully evolving as the situations change. Kaye is terrific as Joyce; she’s particularly fine in a moment where the writing suddenly shifts to high melodrama and her character switches instantly from naturalism to high camp. Chung just about steals the show as impossible interview subject Min, as fluid as mercury in her ability to not be pinned down to anything.
Director Ed Sylvandus Iskandar’s staging uses every part of the art gallery (a credit to Stephen Gifford’s clever scenic design) to bring the play’s concepts to fruition, and he gets tremendous work from his actors. Chen’s writing is playfully creative (his concept of an imaginary protest is especially choice) but serious. His depiction of reality as a mask that is removed to reveal an endless series of masks beneath invites disequilibrium — a sort of moral seasickness in the viewer that is heady if ultimately disheartening.
Caught is an entertaining, dizzyingly smart tour de force, and with any justice, this production will sell out its run.
Think Tank Gallery, 939 Maple Ave., Los Angeles; Thurs.- Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 10; www.thinktank.gallery; Running time: two hours with one intermission.