By Noah Buchan
Friday, May 21, 2010, Page 14
It would make the perfect headline: Lady Gaga in an S&M tussle with Andy Warhol. The story would go on to describe, in intimate detail, the dripping of candle wax on Warhol’s naked torso, a whip to keep him in line and plenty of rope to ensure no escape.
Though implausible (Warhol’s been dead for 23 years), the above scene kicks off American Dream Factory (美國夢工廠), the latest play of social criticism by Against Again Troupe (再拒劇團), which begins tonight at Guling Street Avant-Garde Theatre (牯嶺街小劇場).
“It’s the play’s only S&M scene,” said Sammie Liu (劉柏珊), the production’s producer, an hour into a technical rehearsal on Wednesday night.
Pity, that, because Against Again Troupe does such a bang-up job of it — a cross between the gothic atmosphere of Warhol’s Flesh for Frankenstein and the false sexuality of a Gaga video (didn’t she used to be a blow-up doll?).
Directed by Huang Si-nung (黃思農), who co-wrote and workshopped the script with his four actors, American Dream Factory is a mise-en-scene that examines the export of the American dream. Here, however, democratic principles don’t lead to prosperity — the ad nauseum mantra mouthed by a string of recent US presidents.
Today’s American dream export, American Dream Factory suggests, is unfettered capitalism, consumerism and materialism, a dehumanizing product that perpetuates vast inequalities and turns people into automatons. Along with Gaga and Warhol — the latter played by Jack Yao (姚淳耀) of Au Revoir Taipei (一頁台北) fame — the play uses Ronald McDonald, Michael Jackson and Madonna as symbols of the American dream gone wrong.
American Dream Factory began as an art installation for the 2008 Singapore Fringe Festival. The installation comprises the set for the play and requires considerable visual multi-tasking to keep up with. Three televisions showing, for example, footage of Kurt Cobain smashing his guitar and Warhol eating a hamburger, add to the overall theme but also serve as a distraction to the human action. But that’s probably the point.
Though not a particularly original concept (it seems that every month sees a new play in Taiwan attempting to tackle consumerism and materialism as a subject), the fantastical staging of the production makes it an enjoyable ride.