I don’t want to give up Caught‘s trick for two reasons. First, as a piece of medium-melding theater, Caught engages as a guessing game. Unfortunately, the second reason is that I’m not sure how well it works as anything else.
Christopher Chen wrote the piece and Desdemona Chiang directed. Chen’s script is interesting, creating distinct movements that explore ideas of appropriation in storytelling and authenticity. The central guiding questions of Caught are great questions to ask. Acts of appropriation occur all the time with little thought, or misguided thought, towards other cultures. However, there is one specific instance that jumps out as the play’s biggest problem in exploring those ideas. Without spoiling anything, I will say that the script starts to fold in on itself. By putting the play in conversation with itself, Chen’s storytelling tricks become so obvious that the remainder of the show loses both the element of surprise and the subtleties of its structure.
Tricks aside, other elements the piece remain interesting. For one thing, it is a fascinating, intuitive use of the theater space. Lex Marcos’ set design is so effectively subdued that it immediately immerses one in the constructed reality of multiple mediums. The lighting, designed by Reed Nakyama, grants each piece of the story a different, jarring aesthetic that builds wonderfully on the play’s concern with malleable truth. The acting is excellent. Justin Huertas particularly shines in multiple roles, grounding the esoteric stories with legitimate humanity. Bradford Farwell, Jonelle Jordan, and Narea Kang round out the small cast, and are similarly, impressively specific as they perform within a too-self-aware story.
Caught is a lot of fun. While its storytelling instincts are not always as keen as they should be, the adaptation by Chiang and Intiman Theatre is excellent.
Caught is currently running at the Intiman Theatre at 12th Avenue Arts. For tickets and more information, go to https://seattle.carpe-diem.events/calendar/9710319-intiman-theatre-presents-caught-by-christopher-chen-at-12th-avenue-arts/.