Chimerica is a good example of how not to write an “issue” play. The writer Lucy Kirkwood has taken all her research on issues of current culture, politics and economics of China and related effects on America and constructed a narrative which can plausibly fits all these research into. The result is a shallow study on China and America with a fairly inconsequential and uninvolving fictitious story sprang from Tienanmen Square photo of the “tank man” in 1989. The issues touched on and discussed are fairly obvious and basic, nothing one would not have read if you keep up to date with the newspaper. The construct is so artificial that there is even a power point presentation about the Chinese market demographics crowbarred into the play which show the level of desperation of cramming in all the newspaper reading Kirkwood did.
So forget about the content of the play, but as a bit of pop corn entertainment, it is adequate. There is the fictional hunt for the identity of the tank man, a will-they-won’t-they love story and some haunting ghostly apparition, so there is something for everyone. The production is slick and the half Chinese and half Caucasian actors are game and dedicated despite the flimsy script. But again due to Kirkwood’s misguided ambitions, the play is 3 hours and 5 minutes long (already trimmed from 3 hours 30 mins originally advertised) which makes it a long time to say very little. The production team is to be applauded for tackling such a big subject matter but unfortunately the writing is not up to scratch.