Sonja, a first-generation American and a successful author, travels to Shanghai to interview Hua, a star of the Beijing Opera, about whom she is writing a book. She arrives simultaneously with the Cultural Revolution, and makes no headway with Hua, who is unimpressed by her. However, she gets to observe Hua’s humiliation at the hands of Ling, a young member of the Red Guard, who may or may not be his daughter.
That is what the first act of Red is about, and mighty uninteresting it is. In Act Two, we get a rather implausible but striking twist, which I can’t discuss because that is almost all there is to this amateurish play. It is the sort of thing that anyone who has read a few articles about the Cultural Revolution and seen a couple of recent films from China could write with one arm tied behind his back. Chay Yew, the author, has published a number of plays that have been produced here and abroad, has won several playwriting awards, and holds a couple of impressive theatrical posts in Los Angeles. But Red is likely to make you see red.
It is, to be sure, hard to convey the Cultural Revolution with only three speaking parts and one nonspeaking one. In this decently acted and directed production, only Liana Pai, as Ling, stands out.