Gold Mountain is a handsome production
By David Yip and Kevin Wong with Les Deux Mondes and Unity Theatre. Directed by Daniel Meilleur. Produced by Les Deux Mondes and Unity Theatre. Presented by the Cultch. In the Cultch’s Historic Theatre on Tuesday, October 23. Continues until November 4
Gold Mountain is shiny, but it’s fool’s gold. The show’s designers have encrusted the production with visual cues, but the play is so slight that there’s little reason to care.
In Gold Mountain, one of the writers, David Yip, examines his father’s life. Yee Lui, the fictionalized stand-in for Yip’s dad, travels from pre-revolutionary China to Liverpool, where he and a white woman named Mary wed and have several children. The players, events, and themes are significant: Sun Yat-sen, the Kuomintang, the Maoist revolution, immigration, racism, and family strife and alienation.
Amazingly, none of this has much impact: the characters have no depth, the events have little context, and I don’t recall a single exchange that would qualify as a dramatic scene. The main characters, Yee and his son David, both tell stories, but those accounts are dryly descriptive and their emotional content is spelled out: “You know, I’m not sure you ever knew or cared how much Mom sacrificed for you, did you, Dad?” Sure, Yee is an emotionally contained guy, but there’s got to be a way to get more resonant access to his eventful life.
Working with this stillborn material, Eugene Salleh, who plays David as well as a number of other characters, manages to impress with his relaxed, authoritative presence, precise physicality, and clear characterizations. I got the impression that writer Yip, who plays Yee in this two-hander, was approaching the material reverentially.
The primary raison d’être for Gold Mountain seems to be to provide a playground for its designers. Visual contributors Yves Dubé, Daniel Meilleur, and Kathleen Gagnon combine lighting, shadow play, and film on one see-through and one solid screen. They use iconic objects, including a gold ship that sails on a sea of shiny gold fabric. And they create some striking images, including a tableau in which Mary’s wedding portrait is projected onto huge, white, unfolding Chinese fans.
The physical production is handsome, but I kept asking myself, “Is that all there is?”