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      If You Had Called Me
    War and no peace

    A group of Taiwanese dramatize their own haunting experiences from the Chinese revolutionary era in the vignettes of "If You Had Called Me."


    Four Taiwanese women and four Taiwanese men come out on stage and, one by one, recount the details of their early lives in China. Birth, education, marriage, the memories of ordinary lives — punctuated by violent upheaval as the Chinese revolution of 1949 drove them abruptly away from home forever.

    Directed by: Peng Ya-Ling.
    Cast: Wu Ming, Yang Chi-Tang, Ksiang-Tsuai Tung-Hai, Shen-Yang Cheng-Yi, Ku-Liu Hsiu-Ching, Ho-Wang Hsiu-Ching, Chiang Chien-Yu, Tu Yi-Chin, Chang Shin, Cheng Ching Chih.

    Company: Uhan Shii Theatre Group.
    In Mandarin Chinese without subtitles.
    Taipei Theater
    1221 Avenue of the Americas
    Fri.-Sat., June 9 and 10, at 8 p.m.
    Sun., June 11, at 2 p.m.
    Tickets $15; students, seniors $10
    (212) 373-1850; Ticketmaster (212) 307-7171

    "If You Had Called Me: Echoes of Taiwan" grew out of a kind of group-therapy gathering in Taiwan, in which members of the 1949 generation met to share their life experiences. Reportedly, they were reluctant to discuss the tragic details of their flight to Taiwan, but director Peng Ya-Ling drew out their tragic stories — and persuaded them to participate in these dramatically staged re-enactments.

    So many discussions of Taiwan and China are explicitly political, but these stories are largely intimate, personal ones about families torn apart and children set adrift. The eight adults are joined by four youngsters who play the actors as children at the adults' own feet, linking past and present on stage. One man remembers the children being offered for sale at a marketplace, and a haggard but eager mom hawks one of her little girls, saying, "She can wash clothes! She can cook! She can clean!" A woman purchases one of the boys with hardly a thought, and is uncomprehending when he won't obey her order to come away with her, as if buying him was the most natural thing in the world.

      If You Had Called Me
    In another story, a mother must flee to Vietnam and leave her small daughter behind with her grandmother. She returns heartbroken when her daughter ignores her pleas to call her "mother."

    The play is presented in Chinese, and the director has consciously decided not to provide subtitles. "The important thing is not the language — the important thing is that it holds up a mirror to us," Peng explained after a preview. It is possible to get the feeling of the show with a smattering or less of Chinese, but certainly a good deal of meaning is lost. Yet, what comes through is the depth of emotion that the participants, not professional actors but quite convincing on stage, obviously feel as they recount their own stories.

    JUNE 8, 2000

    Reader comments on If You Had Called Me:

  • Sounds interesting   from Paul, Jun 24, 2005

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