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EDITOR: Andrea Kirk
THE BODY AND SOUL OF A CHINESE WOMAN
By Sheelagh O'Connor
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|The Body and Soul of a Chinese Woman by C. Y. Lee at the Stella Adler Theatre.|
What amazes me most about this play is that it was written by a Chinese man, C. Y. Lee, almost twice my advanced age, whose distant culture is a dark mystery and yet, whose play challenges many aspects of my own Irish and American cultural conditioning.
This is a story with passion and energy burning and dancing behind the cultural obstacles to light and freedom. The stage opens up in an American apartment with bright yellow walls and vibrant red all around, red symbols of good luck, red clothes, red furniture…. the red and yellow colors of the Chinese flag, colors we associate with Chinese dragons and fire and sun. Exotic peach dumplings are offered to the spirits of Buddha and Christ on a little altar and Feng Shui is shifted around in the room.
Our heroine Amy Wu ( played by Marily Zhu) plucks expertly on the chords of a Chinese harp, bringing us the beautiful music of ancient China. The spirits dance gracefully with original Chinese movement, reminding us how these characters and our own bodies are often trapped in conditioned responses and restricted movement.
Amy, a young traditional folk dancer from China, recently divorced from her cheerful Chinese husband ( played by Kenzo Lee) is conflicted by the forces blocking her quest for happiness. She is visited regularly by her manipulating Aunt Mabel ( played by Ho-Jung) , encouraging her to pursue success, not necessarily happiness, via men, marriage and money. Amy’s ex husband uses her and her apartment to try to bring him luck in real estate deals. No one appears to listen to Amy or hear her needs in this Americanized world, they all have plans for her, except her Soul ( played by Corinne M. Chooey ), red and gold, dancing merrily and provocatively, making suggestions. Amy whines a lot in the early stages of the play, she appears to be a true victim of these forces. We wonder, what redemption could possibly be available for this “stuck” tradition -bound spirit?
Amy’s expressed dream to her boss is to be an Eliza Doolittle from “My Fair Lady”, to be rescued from her culture by a powerful man. Her boss Mr. Green (played by Joshua Cox) , a potential hero and powerful man, dreams of being the king in the “King and I”. He turns out to be a gay man. Amy then plucks up the courage to cross a boundary into another new territory to see if her desires might be met in a gay relationship with her language teacher Ms. Trent (played by Regina Palian).
Is it fair to tell the ending of this story? No, you must go and see it, the ending is more powerful than any of the forces pulling Amy down the wrong paths.
Want to know what other Theatre Critics are saying? Check out Bitter Lemons to see if others have reviewed this production.
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