Remember how good the first one was?

By Sun Shuangjie Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/18 17:38:01

Meng Jinghui debuts another intriguing adaptation from Dario Fo

The Chinese version of Nobel laureate Dario Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist has become a signature work for Meng Jinghui, one of the country's most popular experimental theater directors.

Eighteen years after that premiere, the dramatist has debuted his second adaptation from the Italian playwright, He Had Two Pistols with White and Black Eyes, running at the Shanghai Art Theatre (466 Jiangning Road) through Sunday.

As usual, Meng's production is marked by captivating music, punk-rock lighting, surreal stage and costume designs, and lines relatable for domestic theatergoers.

Even if you know the script already, Meng introduces new elements; if not, don't worry, because Meng leads you through the exciting, hilarious and piercing story.

The play starts in a psychiatric institution, where a patient with amnesia is accused of desertion during war. However, a woman named Luisa comes to claim him as her lover, Giovanni, and brings him back home.

But then the real Giovanni, a rogue and doppelganger to the patient, comes back from the battlefield and continues his life of crime - while scheming to blame his misdeeds on the amnesiac.

Scenes from the play He Had Two Pistols with White and Black Eyes Photos: Courtesy of Meng Jinghui Theatre Studio

The actors are dressed like patients, but in a pretty fashionable way. They wear handsome overcoats with the blue and white stripes common on patient uniforms, but random folds at the hems make them seem like fashion models, lending a sense of absurdity.

To make the original story more relatable for Chinese audiences, Meng introduces popular Chinese theatrical and cinematic elements, as well as domestically popular foreign ones.

From time to time the audience may recognize Bollywood dance, a 007-like gunbattle, Marlon Brando in The Godfather and even a signature performance from veteran comedian Chen Peisi.

Meng's actors perform a number of original songs and dances for the show as well.

There are 11 actors in the play, and all prove their versatility delivering lines, singing and dancing with suffused emotions, as well as playing several musical instruments with ease.

The play's original music adds another layer of content to the show.

Compared with the borrowed tracks that often function as slapstick punctuation, the original songs often convey serious emotion and thought, helping to strike a balance between entertainment and speculation.

Maybe because the ending to the original script is a bit complicated, Meng audaciously cuts off almost a third of the closing; it turns out to be wise and efficient move because a complex story line easily loses focus on a stage, as it already occupies the audience's minds with captivating visuals, music and other formalistic content.

It's obvious that Meng has found his own way to stimulate his audience through what he calls "serious comedy."

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, Theater, Culture

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