Faceless Followers of Twitter and Mao / by R. Sheth

October 26, 2014
Lawrence Bommer

There’s a fascinating paradigm shift in the middle of The Hundred Flowers Project, Christopher Chen’s cautionary stage and video thriller. Whether you can believe it or not, the first-act rehearsal of a play about Mao Tse Tung’s propagandistic “Hundred Flowers Project,” “Great Leap Forward,” and Cultural Revolution becomes, in the second act, the sole reality—a self-sustaining play that unleashes its lethal agenda like the computer Hal in 2001. 

Kinetically enacted by Silk Road Rising in a bold staging by Joanie Schultz, Chen’s ambitious two-act puzzle/protest play conflates two instruments of “persuasion.” Contrasted—but mostly compared—are the Chinese Communists’ bombardment of a cowed populace with false hopes, empty promises and not so empty threats—and our conformity-minded, socially-shaming social media, whose sometimes pernicious influence often masquerades as self-expression and free speech.