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‘The Chinese Lady’ an Incandescent Theatrical Experience

Note: this is a capsule review: look for a full review on Saturday April 2
The Chinese Lady by Lloyd Suh, Kitchen Theatre Company (in person & streaming) through April 10 (kitchentheatre.org)

The Chinese Lady–playwright Lloyd Suh’s brilliant, playful and incisive exploration of two centuries of the Chinese immigrant experience in the US amid the persistence of the Western gaze–blazes forth from the Kitchen stage in director Aileen Wen McGroddy’s incandescent production.

Fueling the dynamic evening are the remarkable Christina Liang playing the main exhibit: Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman recorded to arrive in the U.S.A., in 1834 at the age of 14, and an equally riveting Roger Yeh as Atung, her interpreter/ docent and stage manager.

Put on display by the Carne Brothers as an exotic curiosity to boost their import-export business, Suh imagines Afoy’s life through that turbulent century to this very day as an intricate, humorous, bitingly satiric and haunting series of performances.

Gorgeous design—a bright red jewel box in a shadowed museum showroom— inveigles our eyes (scenic designer Yeaji Kim, lighting designer Madeleine Reid, costume designer Amanda Gladu) as a mysterious, warping soundscape marks the transitions between years (sound designer Julian Crocamo). The design heightens the implications of our (the audience’s) invited gaze at Afong as an object, while the play breaks her out as both agent and victim of her astonishing history.

This unforgettable evening, alternating between subtle and direct, poetry and prose, reveals the Kitchen, back in person in its digs for its 30th anniversary season, to be at the height of its powers under the able new leadership of Artistic Director Rebecca Bradshaw and Managing Director Cary Bland Simpson.

Brava! Don’t miss the boat (especially as the Kitchen is also offering a streaming option.) Through April 10.

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