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June 23, 2017

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Cue the violins for Liu San's midlife crisis

Cue the violins: Liu San (劉三) is about to have a bad day.

In "Playing the Violin" (拉提琴), contemporary playwright Chi Wei-jan (紀蔚然) delivers a story about a garden-variety middle-aged local who goes by the name Liu San(劉三). Liu is a man trapped inside what's by all accounts a failed life — but he doesn't want to see it. When an old friend commits suicide, Liu inadvertently gets involved and then is forced to face the well-hidden truths of his own existence: a bitter marriage, a frustrated career and a home that's essentially devoid of affection.

The play is sparklingly self-aware, even poking some fun at itself through the title. As melodrama after melodrama unfolds, it is clear you're witnessing a rendition of the world's saddest song on the world's smallest violin.

But this new black comedy aims also to land some tough critical jabs at contemporary Taiwanese society. Liu gets through his unimpressive modern life by bluffing and telling lies, to others and to himself, and maybe so do we.

"Maybe we are all tired of this kind of living, but still we lie and labor through life like this every day," said Chi at a press preview.

"This is a story about a society, about a family and about a man."

Magnum Opus

"Playing the Violin" is an original Creative Society (創作社劇團) production that comes to the National Theater this November. At the late-August press preview, the cast ran lines without a hitch but said that the show isn't quite together yet.

"As you can see, language is crucial, and it's been easy to trip up on delivery. Getting it all right is a challenge I hope to be able to overcome," said actress Lu Man-yin (呂曼茵).

Dialogue is much of what holds together Liu the anti-hero's tissue of lies. While Chi's ear for conversation is acclaimed, "Playing the Violin" is set to showcase some of the playwright's most complex dialogue work.

The best, too, Chi hopes.

"I have a reputation for being forthright. I have to honestly point out that this is the best work I've managed so far," said Chi laughingly.

"Playing the Violin" stars Fan Guang-yao (樊光耀) and Yao Kun-chun (姚坤君) under the direction of Lu Bo-shen (呂柏伸). ■

'Playing the Violin' (拉提琴)

► 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 ~ 10 (Fri.~Sat.) / 2:30 p.m. Nov. 11 (Sun.) /

National Theater & Concert Hall (國家戲劇院) / No. 21-1 Zhongshan South Rd., Taipei (台北市中山南路 21-1 號) / NT$500 ~ NT$2000 /

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