Teahouse: A Drama by Lao She
In Brief: One of the best contemporary plays compels multiple reflections on hope and power, and perhaps that universal dream of living in a just society.
A drama that unfolds in a limited space spanning half a century of Chinese history. In the three acts in which it unfolds, the viewer moves from the frustration after the failure of the reformist movement, continuing with the disappointment that followed the end of Yuan Shikai regime, ending in the one that occurred after the end of World War II.
The protagonist of the drama is China, that abstract entity populated by people who suffer the history designed by a few characters absent from the play.
The attitudes that oppress that China, the characters that make that population suffer, are maintained throughout the decades, through the three acts of the play, only their uniforms change, like those policemen who appear in the tea house where this selection of characters parade, continuously oppressing the defenseless. Different are the masters they serve, and the supporting characters who seem to represent them.
One wonders, is it the Chinese people themselves who oppress China, to the Chinese people, and is there any hope that once these regimes are over, the oppression of man by man will disappear? There remains in this work the illusion that the end of these oppressive regimes will put an end to the oppression of man by man.
Lao She, who suffered the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, would surely have written one more act to this work had he been able to survive.
The final question that the reader inevitably asks is: Have the Chinese people succeeded, or are they on the way to succeeding, in freeing themselves from this historical dynamic that has kept them in a subordinate role to the dictates of the powerful over the centuries?
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