Theater Review: THE CHINESE LADY (Greenway Court Theatre in Los Angeles)

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by Joan Alperin on September 11, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles


I saw this beautifully sad, poignant, dark play last Saturday evening and I’m still thinking about it. Thanks to the wonderful writing, acting and directing this two-person outing based on a true story is that memorable.

In 1834 a 14-year-old Chinese girl, Afong Moy (the excellent Amy Shu), arrived in New York from Canton. Supposedly Afong was the first Chinese woman to ever set foot on American soil. She was brought here after some American importers struck a deal with her parents for her to stay in this country for two years and then they would arrange for her passage home. However that was not the case.

When we meet Afong, she is sitting on the stage inside a small decorated room. She is on display as a museum exhibit. Afong tells us that people pay 25 cents to see her. She lets us know that museumgoers like to watch her eat with chopsticks, see what she wears, but most importantly, they want to see how she walks with her bound feet.

Afong finds all this quite entertaining at first. She loves America and its people. She believes that her presence here is something very good for the Chinese people. Thanks to her male translator, Atung (the wonderful Trieu Tran), Afong never learns how the public really sees her. This becomes incredibly clear when she meets President Andrew Jackson who regards her as some sort of freak.

Unfortunately for Afong her two-year-stay turns into a half century, causing her to lose her own sense of identity. But in the end, what’s most powerful is that through Afong’s eyes we get a glimpse into the horrors that Chinese immigrants came to experience in this country, making this play directed by Rebecca Wear and written by Lloyd Suh a heart-rending drama.

photos by Michael C. Palma

The Chinese Lady
Greenway Court Theatre, 544 North Fairfax Ave.
ends on September 29, 2019
for tickets, visit Greenway Arts Alliance

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