Saturday, June 04, 2016

“Caught” at Seattle Public Asks What Is True

Lin Bo (Kevin Lin) in Caught (John Ulman)

Seattle Public Theater
Through June 12, 2016

We hang a lot on “truth” and believing in something real. We like to feel anchored and then free to explore. How many like to go somewhere new and then put your clothing and possessions into hotel drawers so you feel “at home” before you wander off explore the new environment?

Caught, by Christopher Chen, is a play at Seattle Public Theater. But it’s more an experience in disorientation than any kind of story. It asks what truth is. It challenges us to look at what we believe or understand and then shakes us up to ask that again and again and again.
By the time you walk out of the 75 minute whirlpool of ideas, you may not even know if you’re really standing outside a theater. Maybe you just went to a lecture, or were in an art gallery.

In fact, you start the experience (“created” by Jon Kretzu) by walking into an art gallery with modern art displayed by the artist Lin Bo (Kevin Lin), an artist who is introduced to give a talk to us about his art. The talk is a heady intellectual journey into what the fundamentals of art are. He says that, in an ultimate concept, he declared a protest against the Chinese government via social media at a specific date and time (to commemorate the Tianamen Square uprising) but put no location in the announcements, declaring that just by people knowing and expecting there to be a protest that the protest has taken place in the mind.

Bo says that he did not think that he could get in trouble for fomenting a protest if there was no location for the protest and it didn’t happen outside of people’s minds. However, he details that he indeed was thrown into prison and held for three years, anyway. It is a riveting talk.

But perhaps he is not what he says he is. Or perhaps the protest is not the only thing that is just in people’s minds. To explain more is to ruin the rest of the experience, designed to disorient and play off of tropes about how we know and understand the world, including the mechanisms we use to suspend our disbelief about what is happening on stage.

The gallery visitors are given laminated information about the gallery and the displayed art. More information isn’t given out until the end of the short (75 minute) presentation.  

Given the kind of exploration Chen has presented us, and the questions surrounding what truth is, in this political season, when one particular candidate seems to relish distortions and lies as a way of communicating, the relevance of the event seems even more timely.

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