Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Chinese Lady

The Chinese Lady, a new play by Lloyd Suh, was put together much like minimalist music, wherein the same passage of notes is repeated over and over until you cry 'I GIVE UP!'.

The play is based on a real person who was brought to this country in the 1830's, supposedly the first Chinese woman to be seen in this country. She was put on view twice a day and walked around on her tiny bound feet and spoke in Chinese about Chinese customs. She was supposed to be here for two years but was kept here for many more than that, eventually touring the country in her 'show'. At one point she was bought by P.T. Barnum and was a part of his Freak Show.

I am particularly sensitive about Freak Shows since one of my uncles, who was born with just two fingers on the ends of his arms, was once in one of these and came to Battle Creek when I was a kid. Mother and Dad took us to a store front on Capitol Avenue and there was Uncle Ralph, along with three hundred pound 'Baby Betty' and a few other unusual folks on display. Uncle Ralph had trained himself to be a glass blower, worked during the war doing war work, often worked in carnivals, along with my other uncle Paul. I guess the Freak Show was all he could get at that time.

So I have some idea what is like to have to resort to this type of employment to make a living. We knew that he was disadvantaged with his incomplete hands, but he did spectacular work with his glass blowing and weaving. Mother had several of his works on display. I remember one winter he stayed with us and sat up his equipment in the kitchen so the neighbors could come and watch him work. He was an amazing man who made the most of his talent in spite of seemingly impossible odds.

So I feel for the Chinese Lady, the person, not the play, which the Berkshire Eagle described as 'a screed, masquerading as a play'. I agree,

Shannon Tyo played the part of the Lady.

Image result for daniel k. isaac  

Daniel K. Isaac was Atung, her assistant.

It is a very sad commentary on the times but not a very good play.