Chinese-American playwright Christopher Chen blurs illusion with reality and time with space in his innovative piece CAUGHT, presented by Intiman Theatre at 12th Avenue Arts. CAUGHT (which ran March 7-March 30) is Chen’s rejection of conventional categorizations of art, a highly inventive artistic work that crosses between theatrical performance, visual arts exhibit, and artist talkback.
Walking into the theatre space, I step onstage to observe a small arts gallery, consisting of everyday objects that hint at the push-and-pull dynamic between Chinese and American culture. The performance begins with a TED talk-esque speech by dissident artist Lin Bo (Justin Huertas), who describes how the post-Tiananmen climate in China had inspired him to set up an imaginary protest against the Chinese government—an act that ultimately leads to his imprisonment. Before we know it, Chen seamlessly switches the setting to that of a journalist’s office, where Lin Bo is questioned again and again about his imprisonment, until the truthfulness of his account unravels. Chen shifts the scope of the performance yet again; now, two performers (Jonelle Jordan and Narea Kang) act out an artist’s interview that explores how truth and lies manifest in our culture. Chen changes the location once more, to a scene “after the show” where two actors discuss their motivations for creating CAUGHT and come to realize that they had been lied to by someone they had thought to be truthful. By the end of the performance, we are left questioning the authenticity of stories told by journalists, historians, and artists alike. What we believe to be the truth is simply based off the stories we hear and share all around us. CAUGHT at Intiman Theatre. Photo by Naomi Ishisaka.