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Taking theater to the next stage in Shanghai

JULIA, a successful television journalist, one day discovers a penthouse in Manhattan owned by her husband Jack. She was totally unaware of this before.

Katie, who lives in the apartment, is a good-looking young lady who seems to know Jack a little too well. She used to be a "street walker" until six months ago when she met Jack, who took her back to the apartment.

Jack, an upright lawyer, pays Katie a generous amount every month; what she needs to do in return is to go with him to upmarket restaurants, museums, and look for a new career for herself.

When the two women meet in the apartment, they try to figure out the unknown stories, the behind-the-scenes Jack. And that is the beginning of "Pied-a-Terre," a play by American contemporary playwright John Anastasi, which made its Off-Broadway premiere in 2007.

The Chinese version, translated and directed by Professor Fan Yisong from the Shanghai Theater Academy, will be staged at the Shanghai Grand Theater from Monday.

"It is a well-written, powerful piece of theater which is hard to find nowadays," Fan says. "There are many dramatic clashes and secrets unfold one after another. At the same time, it is a very touching story."

Fan is well known for translating Western plays into Chinese. Apart from "Pied-a-Terre," he has also worked on other plays such as "Bloody Money" and "The Goat: or, Who is Sylvia?" which will be brought to the stage here later this year.

According to producer Zhang Yu, there are too many low-quality theatrical productions these days. "Seeing the growing popularity of theater, too many people want to make quick money out of the lucrative market," he says. "They create lousy, so-called 'love comedies,' hire inexperienced actors, sometimes even amateurs, to save on the costs.

"We need more 'serious' plays like 'Pied-a-Terre,' which makes people think after they leave the theater."

Zhang, the director of the Shanghai Modern People's Theater, has been bringing classic Western plays to Shanghai over the years. The theater company has successfully launched the popular Agatha Christie's detective play series in the city, introducing sold-out shows such as "The Mousetrap," "Spider's Web" and "Appointment with Death."

Another play from the series, "Towards Zero," will have its Chinese debut at the end of this month. As is often the case with Christie's works, this is about how detectives Superintendent Battle and James Leach try to get through a labyrinthine maze of clues and deception to find out who murdered Lady Tressilian.

Both the plays will be performed in Chinese without English subtitles.


Date: May 18-23, 7:30pm

Venue: Studio Theater, Shanghai Grand Theater, 300 People's Ave.

Ticket: 120 yuan

Towards Zero

Date: May 25-June 7, 7:30pm

Venue: Drama Theater, Shanghai Grand Theater, 300 People's Ave.

Tickets: 100-200 yuan

Tel: 6422-0926, 6386-8686


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