Group Rep’s ‘The Chinese Wall’ blends humor and history

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Satirical look at barriers both old and new though Sun., Mar. 11 in NoHo

What is the purpose of a wall? To keep some out or others in? History is ripe with examples of said fortifications that eventually fell: the Atlantic, Berlin and Hadrian’s. And of course, the most infamous of all, that this play is based on.

Part political satire, drama and farce, The Chinese Wall blends several genres and themes with an ease that is measured in how well it entertains its audience. That it does, convincingly so.

The Chinese Wall was written by Swiss scribe Max Frisch in 1946, as a reaction and warning for the new atomic age. Frisch’s ideas, while some dated, others are sharp and as poignant as ever. It cannot get as topical as this.

Director Larry Eisenberg creates a dynamic with the use of staging, blocking and clever teleprompts, updating the storyline with current headlines and tweets. The use of multi-media adds an undeniable edge.

The story is that of emperor Tzhin Zhe Huang Ti (Mark Atha) who wants to celebrate after the completion of his wall. His guests are extraordinary, called from ancient Rome to the romanticism of the mid-19th century. The names are recognizable, and they are still engrossed in the thought-form of their time, which proves a dichotomy to the dictates of the emperor.

It would be careless of this writer to give away too much of the plot and how the historical figures factor into this production. What can be revealed is that there are laugh out loud comedic moments laced with true introspection. The costumes by Angela M. Eads are amazing. Savannah Schoenecker as Mee Lan has a natural charisma that illuminates the stage.

We are in the midst of great change and progression. Walls can be overcome.

Recommended.

“The Chinese Wall” plays through Sunday, March 11 at Lonny Chapman Theatre located at 10900 Burbank Blvd. in North Hollywood. Visit TheGroupRep.com or call (818) 763-5990.

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