M. Butterfly – Play Review —– March, 2015


At individual level, M. Butterfly is incredibly fascinating, seductive, true account of a strange relationship between a French diplomat and Mhis Chinese mistress.  Convicted of espionage, the relationship brings him to his ruin.  Despite being in a romantic relationship, the lack of awareness of true identity of his mistress, on the part of the diplomat, Rene Gallimard (played by Kit Wilder) is baffling, scary, and confusing.  There is however, little point in arguing that such a relationship is not possible, considering that it is based on true events that transpired.  Love is truly blind in this story!

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Without dwelling therefore too long on the how can one be so clueless, the story takes the audience on a journey of exploration regarding the stereotypes about East and West and about gender roles and behaviors.  Perhaps conquest of women equaled mastering manhood and conquest of countries, rendered the countries “feminine”.  Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution and the Vietnam War (Review of the documentary “Last Days in Vietnam – http://bit.ly/1qFIL28 ), the play provocatively invites the viewers to explore biases that Westerners held of the East, as a culture of servitude and subservience.  Gallimard arrogantly prophecies about Vietnam war that the Vietnamese would “submit to any show of strength” by the Americans. (History proves him wrong, very very wrong). Gallimard most likely subscribed to similar notion in his romantic fantasies that a relationship with an “oriental” would be a perfect one, given her submissiveness.

The political and sexual arrogance prevalent (especially during the early post colonial era) among Western men, easily rendered them susceptible to deception.  The kind of deception that occurs in playwright Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly, would take the boldness of a director like Jeffrey Bracco, to bring it on stage, and a cast like Kit Wilder, N. Louie, and Laura Espino to pull it off.  And in the end, it was the genius of Ron Gasparinetti and Lauren Howry’s stage design that helped weave realism, ritual and fantasy, for this bewildering, haunting tale to unfold seamlessly.  For tickets, please contact http://www.cltc.org San Jose or @citylights .

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