Fanshen 

Bailiwick Repertory.

In his 1970 book, William Hinton revealed the village of Long Bow, 400 miles southwest of Beijing, as a microcosm of a rapidly changing China. David Hare's stage adaptation transformed that historical record into a Brechtian parable, its subject the community who fanshen ("turn over") centuries of tradition in three pivotal years, 1946 to 1949. A small-scale epic, Hare's play offers object lessons in peasants inheriting privileges denied them for centuries. Sometimes they abuse them: settling private scores, denouncing enemies as capitalist running dogs, and indulging in endless meetings and perpetual self-criticism. But mostly Hare's saga, a kind of antidote to Animal Farm, depicts decent folks coping with climactic change. (Women discover a status and independence that foot binding never allowed.)

Performed on a bare plank stage with only props and banners for decor, this populist pageant can be as invigorating as a propaganda poster and as upright as a morality play. Unlike Lifeline Theatre's 1986 production, a local premiere, Joann Shapiro's forceful staging is supplied with serviceable songs by Antje Gehrken (especially stirring is the final chorale "I Am the Emperor!"), and "Drama in the Fields," an interpolated set of peasant plays. Despite some insecure line readings, the young but inexhaustible cast of 12 display the almost ideological ensemble solidarity this fare requires. Max Shapiro's music adds aural authenticity, and Carlos Tomayo, the quaintly named "violence director," neatly choreographs the stage struggles.

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