REVIEW OF “TIANANMEN REQUIEM” by Carol W. Berman, M.D.
How shocked we all were when we heard about students and other people being killed in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Seeing the play, “Tiananmen Requiem” reminded me of those feelings. The playwright presents two stories at once, a modern one of a Chinese man, Wang Yang (played by Charles Pang) and his daughter, Alyssa (played by Karina Wen), and the same man (Wang) when he was young and with his lover, Shuyin (played by Michael Benzinger) an artist. Of course, their gay love was forbidden under the Chinese regime. Shuyin is an easy-going man, believing that things will work out, while Wang is an uptight soldier. The artist (Shuyin) goes to Tiananmen Square with his friends to protest the government with a hunger strike. (Spoiler Alert: Wang gives Shuyin a gun for protection but the consequences are fatal when this weapon is discovered on him. Wang cannot bring himself to fire on the students and is disgraced because of this.)
All these years, Alyssa had believed that her father (Wang) escaped China for better financial circumstances, but she learns that he was dishonored because he didn’t shoot the students. Not able to tolerate his ostracism, he fled China. I found the play enjoyable and realistic, but friends accompanying me said they could not believe the gay relationships or the characters themselves. It is an important time in Chinese history that should be explored further.