The not so great ‘Chinese Wall’

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Over the years I have been privileged to see many plays at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, most if not all of them presented by The Group Rep and all of them at worst very good and most of them truly outstanding theatre.  So I was shocked when I saw The Chinese Wall for it truly was my very first disappointment at that distinguished venue.

It was clearly a slap at President Donald Trump using a historical perspective on the failures of many leaders over time.  That is a reasonable premise but in application it missed the mark. Now if you happen to be among the great majority of people in Southern California who deeply deplore Trump the mere fact that he is being ridiculed could well be sufficient but that alone does not meet the mark of entertainment for this writer.

Watch Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon and you will see that virtually every one of their monologues has abundant slaps at President Trump but in their monologues it is also nearly always funny, so much so that even Trump might laugh while watching it. However, what I saw on stage during the performance of The Chinese Wall lacked all but the most minor amount of any real humor.

Then there was the fact that various characters over a very wide range of history were brought together with no particular purpose or reason easily discernable. Why, for example would Cleopatra, Napoleon and some ancient Chinese Emperor all gather in the same place and time? I am sure there was a reason but it was just a bit too vague for me to comprehend.

And isn’t it funny how in this day and age when women are demanding greater respect and refusing to be “objectified” the producers of The Chinese Wall thought it was a good idea to have Cleopatra appear topless. I’ll admit as a lifelong male pig it was for me a pleasant vision, but how did it in any way add anything other than carnal thoughts to the performance?

And yes it absolutely does point out the absurdity of Trump’s demand for a wall between The U.S.A. and Mexico by relating back to the Great Wall of China built under the Emperor Qin Shi Huang around 221 to 201 BC to keep out the nomads and other undesirables. It failed as will any wall built under the Trump administration for there are no walls high enough, deep enough or long enough that they can’t be climbed over, dug under or gotten around by anyone truly committed to the task. So on that point the show The Chinese Wall gets kudos but it still comes up short on the entertainment scale.

The show runs now through March 11th 2018 at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank, Boulevard, North Hollywood, California.  Further information including reservations and ticketing is available HERE.