The Rape of Nanking: According to Minnie, Stockyards Theatre Project, at the Chicago Cultural Center. Margaret G. Waterstreet's new docudrama presents one of the worst (and least discussed) cases of genocide during World War II through the eyes of a woman who did her best to save lives. Minnie Vautrin, an Illinois native who spent most of her adult life as a missionary in China, sheltered as many as 13,000 Nanking women from Japanese forces during the winter of 1937-'38.
Vautrin's story deserves to be dramatized, but this play never gets beneath the surface of the woman still revered as "the Living Goddess of Nanking." Blending fact and fancy, Waterstreet presents her heroine as a plucky, cornfed Woman Who Does Too Much. Angela Bullard is disarming as Vautrin, but she doesn't tap her character's deepening horror and despair. And Waterstreet has invented a Japanese general who once pined for Vautrin at the University of Illinois--a subplot that in the context of rape, torture, mutilation, and murder just sounds silly.
In Cat Gleason's listless staging, movement sequences illuminate the historical exposition, but the result is often distracting. Richard Gordon does an adequate job as John Rabe, the Nazi Party member who helped establish the international safety zone containing Vautrin's makeshift refugee center. But Vautrin's Chinese colleagues mostly seem cardboard cutouts.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jennifer Girard.