The Orphan of Zhao


As the unofficial resident director at the Lincoln Center Festival, Chen Shi-Zheng brilliantly translates ancient Chinese performance forms into a language that 21st-century Americans can comprehend. This year, his two versions of The Orphan of Zhao continue a fascinating trajectory that began with the epic Peony Pavilion (1999) and The Night Banquet (2002).

 The Wall Street Journal July 20,2003

…Shi-Zheng’s direction holds us constantly on the knife-edge between laughter and tears. In their movement and intonation, his western actors mimic classical Chinese style, part of the director’s ongoing journey towards a fusion of eastern and western theater traditions. Best is to see both versions. The Chinese cast’s virtuosity is consummate, and Shi-Zheng’s storytelling is as lucid as ever. This is oriental opera for everyone, fast-paced and gripping, overflowing with humanity.

 Financial Times August 4, 2003

Chinese director Chen Shi-Zheng has taken this 13th century play as the source for an English adaptation that’s as spare and gorgeous as the set, performed by a cast mainly made up of American actors. … The production has the unifying aesthetic of rich economy, one that showcases the multivalent power of this old and bloody tale.

 Newsday July 21, 2003

Carrying a tradition bound art into a culture both contemporary and foreign, Chen doesn’t so much update it as let its ancient stylization evolve into modern Western abstraction. It looks like calligraphy, only done with bodies in lieu of brush strokes. … Chen’s imaginative repertoire is wide, his visual sense exact, and his taste unerring. … Chen’s sensibility invests every aspect of the evening with grace, while never losing sight of everyday reality.

 The Village Voice  July 23-29, 2003