“A bit difficult to appreciate at first. It’s so…primitive, so crude and barbaric. I like it!” That’s one Chinese character’s notion of Western Opera—“La Traviata” to be exact—in playwright David Henry Hwang’s “Golden Child,” a sumptuous Midwest premiere production courtesy of Silk Road Theatre Project that is capping off a critically acclaimed run with a well-deserved extension. “Golden Child” is Hwang’s semi-autobiographical tale of his great-grandfather’s sudden turn from polygamy and Confucianism in 1918 China to monogamy and Christianity, as well as the colossal impact on his three wives and daughter Ahn, the eponymous “golden” child. But more than just opera is debated and deconstructed—by characters on both sides of the Asian-American assimilation experience—to thought-provoking and persuasive effect. There’s also feminine submissiveness as an Eastern form of power and not just humility and Western solipsism as not only the liberator of the individual but also the mortal enemy of discipline. Indeed, there’s something fascinating about how we are perceived by others and in Hwang’s finely penned scenes you not only recognize the sometimes humorous and often painfully true Western stereotypes, you understand a bit of the Eastern philosophies that underline the Chinese characters who articulate them. The play has been crafted with such beautiful attention to detail and its dialogue is imbued with such delicious subtext that any American unfamiliar with Chinese society or history will nonetheless leave the play feeling heartfelt sympathy for the loss of one cultural tradition—no matter how seemingly foreign—for the acceptance of another’s. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
“Golden Child” runs at Chicago Temple, 77 West Washington, (312)857-1234 through May 6.