This drama paints a picture of the type of society and conditions citizens of this oppressive land had to endure in an intense time period. The audience discovers a scandalous secret involving beloved schoolteacher, Mei, played by Chun Cho and younger man, Li, played by Wanning Jen. The thorough plotline helps fill in the blanks as this relationship unfolds and hints at how it will come to impact the whole community.
As the actors interact with each other and work to share this story, the spirit and tenacity in which they do so is something remarkable. Their presence and focus in bringing a significant time in history to life leaves the audience with chills. While it is so important to pay attention to the subtitles in this production, as it signifies when time and seasons pass, it is hard to tear your eyes away from the living story taking place on stage. With a set design also by K.K. Wong that uses simple props to illustrate the basic lifestyle of the residents, audience members get a feel for the day-to-day life in this community. At times, it is challenging to keep up with processing the subtitles and watching the action on stage, and intense concentration is essential in understanding the continued series of events.
Costume design by Kevin Yang relies on simple fabrics and colors for the wardrobe of the cast, to reflect the setting in which they lived – a rural, poor, and halted society. Citizens woke up, went to school, worked and remained obedient in this oppressive society – expected to accept a life full of monotony and fear. Bingcong Zhu, who stars as Wu, clings to her youthful energy and brings vivacity to the bleakness with her zest for adventure and love of laughter – – providing a refreshing and joyful break. In this tale, it is nice to be reminded of the good and purity in the world that still exists even when the most horrific days seem to have no end.
For a moving and eye-opening look back at a significant time in China’s history and the reality of life in one small town, Midnight Kill, sheds light on the mystery of human nature and motivation. Guaranteed to stop audiences in their tracks and keep the mind’s wheels turning.
Midnight Kill (through May 22, 2016)
Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave, between 9th and 10th Streets, in Manhattan
Running time: one hour and 40 minutes with an intermission