The White Terror era witnessed the imprisonment, disappearance or execution of tens of thousands of Taiwanese who opposed the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石). The deep-seated bitterness that many Taiwanese felt against the regime is the starting point for The Party Theater Group’s (同黨劇團) The Sky Crisis (飛天行動), which sees its second run beginning tonight at the Guling Street Avant-Garde Theater.
“The experiences of the main character are rooted in history,” said Betsy Lan (藍貝芝) who plays three of the production’s six roles. “But we don’t just want the pro-independence point of view. We did considerable research on Taiwan’s recent history to gain a deeper understanding of the characters.”
Be that as it may, the work ends up being less about the country’s tumultuous past than it is about the relationship between the two protagonists.
The play’s principle character, played by Chui An-chen (邱安忱) — who also wrote The Sky Crisis — is a physicist whose father was a leader in Taiwan’s independence movement during the 1970s and 1980s — a role that eventually led to the mysterious murder of him and his family. Only the physicist, then a young man, survived.
Forward to the present day, or some time after a pro-China president has been elected as Taiwan’s leader, rage replaces loss and the physicist hatches a demented plan to right historical wrongs by launching a barrage of missiles at China in the hope of ensuring Taiwan’s independence.
The foil to this plan is a female-to-male transvestite who works with the physicist but also is a spy for China. “[We were] interested in putting some gender politics … some queerness … into the play,” Lan said.
Working with themes of gender politics is nothing new for Lan, who helped organize last year’s Vagina Monologues and has collaborated on a number of productions that deal specifically with gender issues. With The Sky Crisis, however, the overt themes of sexuality, not to mention cross-strait politics, gradually take a back seat to the developing relationship between the spy and scientist.
But the missiles remain, as does the scientists’ hatred for anything that will stand in the way of Taiwanese independence. Media reports about his plans cause chaos in the government, leading to a denouement that is both comical and refreshing in its take on issues of personal and national identity and how these conflict with reality.
The Sky Crisis will be performed today and tomorrow at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm at Guling Street Avant-Garde Theater (牯嶺街小劇場), 2, Ln 5, Guling St, Taipei City (台北市牯嶺街5巷2號). NT$400 tickets are available through NTCH ticketing (Today and tomorrow’s performances are sold out.)