M. Butterfly: The Western Man Says “Yes?”
In some ways, I think I’m very lucky. At least in this one particular way that I have never seen M. Butterfly on stage before this evening (nor have I seen the 1993 film starring Jeremy Irons). Not that I wouldn’t have most likely loved the Tony Award winning Best Play of 1988 that starring John Lithgow and BD Wong at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, which ran for 777 performances. Rumor has it that this Broadway play hypnotized its audience with a mixture of eastern eroticism, intrigue, and moody mysteriousness. People talk about the production with a faint forgetful adoration, not really being able to remember what the play looked like, but definitely they all can recall how it made them feel. “Nothing blinds a man to reality, like perfect love”, so they say in the movie’s promotional trailer. As that quote reflects the truth in this tale, it seems to be true in our memories as well.
These virgin eyes and ears put me in a slight advantage the other night at the Cort Theatre. Julie Taymor’s onslaught is straight on powerful and direct, energetically engaging, and dramatically concise. It doesn’t seem to want to mask this tale in a romantic or mysterious mist, but to shine a more harsh, although I might say, realistic light on the story. Also apparent, is the desire to add some frenetic drive to the compelling story of treason and espionage that took place between China and France in the 1980’s. It is loosely based on the real world relationship between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu, a Peking opera singer who was a Chinese spy obtaining classified secrets during their 20-year-long sexual affair. It also appears that with some additional text added by playwright David Henry Hwang (Yellow Face, Chinglish), that a bolder and less gauzy attitude is being presented in this production, one with more graphic descriptions of the sexual acts between the two, and a more pronounced view inside the Chinese espionage circle Song was involved in. (for the full review, click here)