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May 28, 2011

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Allen explores sordid affairs, this time with plays

RELATIONSHIPS make the world go round. And few are better at creating movies and plays about sordid relationships than Woody Allen.

"Central Park West," two one-act plays by Woody Allen, will premiere at Shanghai Grand Theater next Wednesday. It is the first time the American director's theatrical work will be staged in China and it will be performed in Mandarin.

Like most of Allen's movies, the two plays, subtitled "Riverside Drive" and "Old Saybrook," deal with the ugly side of relationships. The stories, both involving secret affairs, are complicated, entertaining and insightful.

"Many people nowadays go to the theater for light comedies so they can relax and forget about work and life," says director Jiang Tao. "However, this play does exactly the opposite. It is more likely to make people worry, especially if they come with their lovers."

The poster promoting "Central Park West" asks two questions: Do you dare to come to the theater with your wife? Or are you daring enough to come with "her?"

"Infidelity is a much discussed topic in China today," Jiang says, when asked why they picked up these two stories. "Allen uses a comedy 'shell' to cover the tragic core at the heart of these stories. There are no dramatic ups and downs in the play, but it's filled with Allen's signature, fun dialogue."

Allen manages to create a complicated play with a simple set, just a few characters and a whole lot of humorous dialogue.

The play contains some dialogue concerning sex, which means those under 18 will not be admitted.

"God of Carnage" by renowned French playwright Yasmina Reza is another black comedy masterpiece that will hit the theater next month.

The play has won Best Play, Best Director and Best Actress awards at the 2009 Tony Awards, and was given the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in the same year.

The story is about how two pairs of parents meet to discuss their children's fight at a playground. At first, they plan to solve the conflict in a civilized manner. However, as the evening goes on, they become extremely childish and start to fight with each other over everything. The civilized surface disappears and savage instincts take over.

"It is a smart play for smart people," says young Taiwanese director Wu Dingqian. "People nowadays tend to live with a 'civilized' mask, especially in a metropolitan city like Shanghai. However, deep down, we are still savage."

Veteran actors Zhou Yemang and Shen Lei, along with actresses Song Ruhui and Huang Fangling, will perform the play in Mandarin.

Central Park West

Date: June 1-18, 7:30pm

Ticket: 120 yuan

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater

Address: 300 People's Avenue

God of Carnage

Date: June 9-July 3, 7:30pm (closed on Monday)

Tickets: 50-280 yuan

Tel: 6473-0123

Venue: Shanghai Drama Arts Theater

Address: 288 Anfu Road


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