A review of “Caught” by Christopher Chen, on stage at Seattle Public Theater through June 12, 2016.
Christopher Chen’s “Caught” opens with a 15-minute monologue from a dissident Chinese artist, who recounts some of the indignities he faced while imprisoned for defying the government. Then, it abruptly pulls the rug out from under us. For the audience, it won’t be the last time.
Chen’s play is a nesting doll of falsehoods and a self-reflexive study of truth in art that has one primary goal: keeping the audience off-balance. One of its characters talks about her desire to make confounding art, and that seems to be Chen’s mission statement, too.
Like an elaborate parlor trick, “Caught” delights in the moment and dissipates shortly thereafter. And yet there’s something admirable about its perversely anticlimactic conclusion — one final kiss-off in a show that has no shortage of them.
by Christopher Chen. Through June 12, Seattle Public Theater, 7312 West Green Lake Drive N., Seattle; $17-$34 (206-524-1300 or seattlepublictheater.org).
“Caught” represents a fairly unusual choice for Seattle Public Theater, which fashions the play as a semi-immersive experience, with the lobby transformed into an art gallery space and the seats reconfigured to theater-in-the-round. There are no ushers with programs, only docents with a cryptic information sheet about the gallery. (Programs are handed out after the show; even some characters’ names are potential spoilers.)
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So, what is “Caught” about? Is it about the aforementioned artist Lin Bo (Kevin Lin), who was thrown in jail for a conceptual piece? Is it about a New Yorker writer (Rebecca Olson) and her temperamental editor (Daniel Wood), guilty of publishing a story riddled with factual errors? Is it about a woman (Keiko Green) whose association — romantic and otherwise — with a late artist might not have been what it appeared on the surface?
Well, it’s about all of those things and none of those things. Revealing much more would do a disservice to a play that works best with as little prior knowledge of the plot as possible.
Jon Kretzu’s direction works in counterpoint to Chen’s script, creating absorbing moments in the midst of a play determined to yank the audience out of them. “Caught” also presents an interesting challenge for the actors, all of whom are required to flash at least a twinkle of self-awareness and at least one of whom is required to intentionally be flat-out bad.
Green, who’s already having an exceptional year both as part of ACT Theatre’s core company and elsewhere, pulls off the required duplicity the best. She’s witheringly condescending, reluctantly sincere and disarmingly vulnerable — sometimes all within the space of just a few minutes.
Most drama requires actors to be believable; “Caught” demands the opposite, and Green’s tricky performance keeps her always one step ahead.