The title of Candace Chong’s Wild Boar describes an interesting phenomena, a curious coexistence of urban development and nature. As dramaturg Carol Ann Tan’s explains, the towering skyscrapers and rapidly increasing population of Hong Kong has somehow yet to drive away the native wild boars, which can still be seen roaming around the city blocks. This intriguing juxtaposition between the natural and artificial, between human order and natural chaos, is one ripe for exploring. And while Chong’s script attempts to unpack these issues, its overreaching and lack of focus ends up muddling any meaning entirely.
This disconnect begins in the opening scenes of the play. With classic noir music playing in the background, we watch as a woman enters a man’s apartment, steals a file from his desk, and accosts him in the elevator. The second scene offers an explanation for this mystery--the man, a historian renowned for his outspoken nature, has disappeared, it would seem, for reasons of censorship. Vowing to uphold his silenced colleague’s legacy, news editor Ruan resigns from his position to start an independent investigative publication, one dedicated to transparency.
An intriguing initial premise, but the second scene’s tone is a very different one from the noir-esque opening, and the mysterious and suspenseful elements only get lost further as the play continues on (though the classic noir music underscores the entire show). The moment after Ruan announces his resignation, for instance, we shift to a scene that delves into a past infidelity between Ruan’s wife and his former student. From that moment on, character exposition revolving around romance becomes the play’s focus. Until, that is, we come to the close of the first, lengthy act, when the play shifts again, introducing another social issue into the mix (one which is entirely abandoned by the start of the second act).
The play succeeds in throwing out a series of buzzwords--journalistic integrity, media censorship, social consciousness, freedom of speech--but fails to delve any deeper into these terms. In short, Wild Boar’s concept and script is great at generating intrigue but struggles to move beyond that.
Review by Emily Schmidt
Wild Boar continues through Dec 17 at The Historic Chicago Temple Building. More info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreInChicago's Review Round-Up.