I heart Beijing- or not

June 12th, 2007


“It is a tribute to the importance of a lifestyle and to its scale when art is created specifically for those that live it. Life in Beijing for many ex-pats has become so recognizable, so identifiable that Elyse Ribbons’ attempted send-up thereof is an easy decision to understand. The very title of her play I Heart Beijing screams audience appeal, promising to deliver easy-to-grasp comedy for anyone who knows the situations it describes. But therein lies the play’s ambiguity and ultimately its downfall. It is hardly original to pack a play with cultural references for the audience to chuckle at. This can be an effective foil to the main storyline, keeping the mob entertained while the plot progresses. Unfortunately, I Heart Beijing offers plenty of chuckle-worthy references but little glimpse of anything else.”


“While indulging in stereotypes can be a useful tool to highlight provocative areas of satire, Ribbons struggles to elevate her characters above this level, letting them revel in their own normality to obtain cheap laughs.”

Wow. It’s not all bad, though:

“One strongpoint of I Heart Beijing is its ability to never take itself seriously, preferring to outline cultural clashes through humor and to resolve them in the same vein, never picking sides and ridiculing both worlds with similar abandon, in set scenes as well as in smaller vignettes. Haagan’s send-up of the type of foreigner anyone in Beijing is familiar with punctuates the play with constant laughs while Liu Ming’s first appearance is pure comedy gold.”

But that paragraph finishes with:

“However, such moments pale against the backdrop of rapid-fire dialogue that feels staged instead of spontaneous. In this, the blame may not be dropped on the actors who do their best with one-dimensional characters, fleshed-out personalities butchered for the sake of situational comedy.”

But if I do any more cut-and-pasting I’ll be packed off to Qinghai for re-education for plagiarism. Let’s just say that at 100 kuai a ticket I don’t think I’d bother going to see this play even if the review was good. Not that it’s expensive, the price seems about right for Beijing, just that ordinary expat life in Beijing provides enough entertainment without putting it on stage, and anyway, lzh and I need to be saving money for more important things, so why bother?. But the bad review doesn’t help.

2 Responses to “I heart Beijing- or not”

  1. Zypher Says:

    Interesting reviews… For me, I surely have mixed feelings about this young lady who eagerly “marks” every passerby with “I Heart Beijing” stickers. Maybe in the modern age, marketing activity itself is far more significant than what is being marketed…

  2. wangbo Says:

    Well, I haven’t been stuck with any “I Heart Beijing” stickers, but it doesn’t strike me as being the best marketing method. But maybe you’re right, maybe the marketing activity is more significant than what is being marketed.