by Bruce Chadwick
The Dance and the Railroad Pershing Square Signature Theater 480 W. 42nd Street New York, N.Y.Photo Credit: Signatory Theater. The play The Dance and the Railroad could have been a landmark drama about the role of the Chinese in the historic construction of the Transcontinental Railroad that connected the entire country by rail in 1869, but something went wrong. David Hwang’s play debuted in 1981 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Price and has been produced hundreds of times since then. Now, thirty-two years later, it has lost whatever punch it had when it opened. The drama is the story of two Chinese workers on the railroad who are killing time on top of a mountain, pretending they are members of a Chinese opera troupe. All of the Chinese laborers are on strike to protest unacceptable conditions on the railroad, from long hours to low pay. The railroad, and strike, are hardly mentioned during the entire length of the play. Towards the finale, there is some discussion about the strike -- management wins -- and the two men now have to return to work.
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