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CURTAIN CALL: Strippers and Princesses
From THAT'S SHANGHAI April 2008 Print & Web Edition

By Mina Choi


March was the month of the theatrical box-office wonders in Shanghai. First there was the Stan Lai plays from Taiwan, part of the Shanghai Grand Theater celebration of “Liang’an San-Di,” a celebration of unified central Chinese culture. Then, farther away from People’s Square government offices, on Anfu Road, at the Shanghai Dramatic Art Center, was another box-office wonder, a re-run of Marber’s prize-winning 1997 play Closer. This Chinese version of play was translated by Fan Yisong, a professor at the Shanghai Theater Academy, whose other translated play, Lend me a Vitas, also played in March at the SDAC.

Prof. Fan’s translation of Closer debuted at the Asian Contemporary Theater Festival at SDAC in 2005, and became the festival favorite. It returned in March, with some cuts to the dialogue and amazing multi-media projections that made the audience feel like they were inside a live music video. This latest production was so popular that outside the theater the scalpers were selling the 150RMB tickets for 500RMB

Closer is probably better known as the mediocre film starring Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Clive Owens, and the beautiful heart-throb Jude Law. This intriguing and dark story of two intersecting couples, and how they confuse sex with love and love with sex, seemed to hit the right note for the white-collar, twenty-something audience in Shanghai. Despite its popularity, I found the acting flat, although the amazing black and white projections of Shanghai urban streets made up for the lackluster performance. The problem was that the director didn’t understand the play; the play is about three white-collar professionals pivoting around a young, desperate stripper who craves love. But the SDAC’s stripper-Alice did not look or act desperate, and certainly didn’t feel like anyone who had ever stripped for money. She may have had stripped for her narcissistic attention-craving performance-aspirations and to show-off her hard-earned dance moves, but not for those ten-dollar bills or hundred RMB notes. So, that much-anticipated strip-bar scene only just left me cold. My only reaction was: do I really need to see yet another Shanghai xiaojie showing off her great body?

After all, isn’t stripping, at the very least, about interacting with the customer/audience?

Needless to say, you wouldn’t have caught me shoving any dollar bills into the boot of SDAC’s Alice.

March 2008, Snow Storm and Bestiality (read)

February 2008, A Recap of the Spectacular Fall 2007 season (read)


For a complete list of Theater Articles by Mina Choi click HERE