L.A.’s ‘Caught’ is a Brilliant and Unique Theater Experience

by Ringo Le (@ringole)

Photo: Steven Klein (Firefly)

Photo: Steven Klein (Firefly)

Caught, the 2016 Obie award-winning play by Christopher Chen, is a visual and
visceral experience that bitingly explores cultural appropriation and how Americans view foreigners. (In this case, it involves the Asian-American experience.) The immersive production opens in an “art gallery” where the audience partakes in an exhibit supposedly belonging to Chinese dissident artist Lin Bo (a commanding Louis Changchien). The actor works the room with the help of his hosts, Think Tank Gallery, delivering a lecture that seduces the crowd into his world and skillfully blurs the line between what is real and what is staged.

Photo: Steven Klein (Firefly)

Photo: Steven Klein (Firefly)

A second scene involves a re-enactment of Bo’s interview with the New Yorker editors (Jessica Kaye and Steven Klein) who featured him in a piece that garnered him lots of attention…and scrutiny. They ask him intimate questions about his ordeal as an artist imprisoned in China. The dialogue dances between art and politics, flowing into a discussion about smokescreens and censorship, and ultimately swelling into heightened (and hysterical) melodrama bordering on camp. The 360-degree set-up for this segment helps solidify Caught‘s status as razor-sharp satire.

The third installment is presented like a discussion panel in which a moderator (Kaye again, here playing an actress playing a host) invites a young artist named Wang Min (Jackie Chung) to come and speak about Chinese art. Our host’s well-meaning questions are in and of themselves casually racist and offensive, holding up a mirror to which artists must continually explain themselves.

Photo: Steven Klein (Firefly)

Photo: Steven Klein (Firefly)

For the fourth and final “act,” a curtain is literally lifted to peel back yet another layer, focusing on the artists posing as Lin Bo and Wang Min (actors playing actors playing actors), forced to confront and question themselves and their intentions.

Brilliantly directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, this production is one of the most unique theater experiences out there. It is the best immersive play since Here Lies Love. Part Clue, part Inception, Caught is a mind bender that ultimately asks us to upend our preconceived notions about how we view those different from us and to separate the art and the artist. It urges us move outside of the world we know while confronting any xenophobia that lies dormant within us.

Caught runs now through December 10 in downtown Los Angeles. Tickets can be purchased HERE.

About The Author

Hiko Mitsuzuka
Entertainment Editor-at-Large

Hiko Mitsuzuka is a self-proclaimed pop culture connoisseur who resides in L.A. and obsesses over songs months before everyone else obsesses over them. He has worked in TV and commercial production ever since he left his native New York in the early 00s. He has worked at the world-renowned Anonymous Content and Carsey-Werner and freelanced as a treatment writer for award-winning directors as well as a contributing writer for 'Instinct.' In addition to writing about entertainment and travel for 'Bello,' Hiko can currently be seen in the roles of Manager of Creative Planning at Stun Creative (PromaxBDA's North America Agency of the Year, 2013, 2014, 2017), film critic for ScreenPicks.com, and contributor for The Huffington Post. He's also currently working on the novel 'Slasher Movie Girl.' His obsessions include quoting old sitcom dialogue and stalking people on Instagram. His vices include chocolate chip cookies and movie theater popcorn. Tweet him @TheFirstEcho.

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