Silk Road Rising goes noir
Ask Helen Young, director of the upcoming Silk Road Rising production Wild Boar what noir is and she’ll advise that it’s far more than venetian blinds, detectives, and damsels in distress. More, think beyond the classic Hollywood flicks in that genre --Sunset Boulevard, Double or Indemnity Noir, she says, isn’t just for Hollywood; it belongs on the contemporary Chicago stage.
Written by Hong Kong playwright Candace Chong and adapted by David Henry Hwang (Tony Award winning playwright), Wild Boar is not just specific to one culture, or country. Its bold dialogue and Casablanca-worthy former flames strives to elevate the classic whoduneit mystery.
Producing the piece is Silk Road Rising, Chicago’s theater company dedicated to expanding representation of Asian American and Middle Eastern American.
Admittedly, some of us (this writer included) know little to nothing about Hong Kong’s political structure.
Because the themes of fake news and the current struggle of journalists are so universal to American audiences, the experience of seeing Wild Boar is geared to not be dependant on pre-knowledge of Hong Kong’s political scene. Still, taking the time to leaf through the program and dramaturg statement certainly won’t hurt.
Before Bogart or Hayworth, noir came from the twisted psyche of post-WWI Europe and the haunting light schemes of German Expressionism.“Noir came from worry and the uncertain fate of the world.. and from not knowing who is watching who”, observes Young.
As the investigation of a missing professor spirals, extreme shadow and overall design of Wild Boar externalizes the eerie tone within the story. The harsh contrast between light and shadow illuminate that classic struggle between good vs evil. “I’m interested in the way this play creates an inner dialogue. The questioning of ourselves, the questioning of how we use our voices and how we prevent voices. Who is doing the shadowing and who is being watched. That is what I’m intrigued by with Noir”, says Young.
Jamil Khoury, Silk Road Rising Artistic Director elaborates, “By pulling from this artistic style and strong Noir visuals, Wild Boar stands apart from everyday life. This divergence from realism allows the themes, the true fear that Tricia and Ruan face to wash over us. It is not your ordinary lighting design to match ordinary life. We are thrown into a hostile world of jagged shadows, of ‘journalism under siege’.. “
“The sound design is equally commanding as the stage design/lighting. The use of original music and more diegetic sounds bring the chaos of Hong Kong streets right to us. Sounds of chatter, construction, and daily life buzz around the space somehow quickening the pace of scenes.
“We do not live, write, or work in a vacuum. There are always news stories and background noises drawing us in. This bold use of sound adds a richness to the experience as it reminds us that theatre does not operate in a vacuum either. And neither do the characters. Even when Johnny wants to escape the chaos and sounds of the city, he can’t.
If we strip away the Hong Kong politics, the Noir visuals, the rumbling audio, Wild Boar still has that compelling hold over viewers as we savor the undeniable heat and biting repartee that only former lovers can have.
“We all want to believe that we’re doing art that matters and yet if you were to divorce this play from current politics, it would still be an absolute powerhouse of a story”.
Editor's Note: Sharon Krome is both a writer for Picture this Post and the new Marketing Coordinator for Silk Road Rising. Brent Eickhoff, also a Picture this Post writer, is the Assistant Director of Wild Boar.
November 9th - December 17th
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturdays at 4:00pm
Sundays at 4:00pm.
Silk Road Rising. Theater in the Chicago Temple Building
77 W Washington St
Chicago, IL 60602
Preview Performances: $25 for adults, $12.50 for students
Regular Performances: $35 for adults, $17.50 for students
Call 312.857.1234 x201 or visit the Wild Boar website
All images courtesy of Silk Road Rising