LA JOLLA — A new adaptation of “The Orphan of Zhao” by James Fenton, directed by Carey Perloff, a co-production with American Conservatory Theater, is being presented through Aug. 3 at La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla village Dr., La Jolla.
“The Orphan of Zhao” is a classic Chinese legend that has its roots in the fourth century BCE. It’s an epic story of self-sacrifice and revenge. In the aftermath of a political coup, a country doctor is forced to sacrifice his own son in order to save the last heir of a noble and massacred clan. Often described as the Chinese “Hamlet,” this enduring tale was the first Chinese play to be translated in the West nearly 300 years ago and has inspired countless operas, plays, and movies.
The London Guardian praised Fenton’s adaptation as “haunting. [A] drama hewn out of a myth that speaks across the centuries.”
“This is a play that proves the classics are as gripping and fresh as anything in theaters today. It’s an edge-of-your-seat drama full of twists and turns, revenge and murder, and ultimately sacrifice,” said Artistic Director Christopher Ashley.
The cast features:
Marie-France Arcilla (“Stuck Elevator” at ACT, “Working” at Prospect Theater Company) as The Princess;
Stan Egi (“Golden Child” off Broadway) as Tu’an Gu;
Philip Estrera (“A Christmas Carol” at ACT) as Chu Ni/Ghost of Cheng Ying’s Son;
Nick Gabriel (“Napoli!” at ACT) as Zhao Dun;
Cindy Im (“Stuck Elevator” and “4000 Miles” at ACT, “The Snow Queen” at San Jose Repertory Theatre) as Princess’s Maid;
Orville Mendoza (Playhouse’s “The Wiz,” “Peter and the Starcatcher” on Broadway, “Miss Saigon” national tour) as Wei Jiang;
Paolo Montalban (“Pacific Overtures” and “The King and I” on Broadway, The Old Globe’s “Allegiance”) as The Ballad Singer/The Emperor;
Brian Rivera (“Yellowjackets” at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, “Macbeth” at Sacramento Shakespeare Festival) as Demon Mastiff/General Han Jue;
Sab Shimono (“Pacific Overtures” and “Mame” on Broadway, Playhouse’s “Wonderland”) as Gongsun Chujiu;
Julyana Soelistyo (Tony nominee for “Golden Child” on Broadway) as Cheng Ying’s Wife;
Daisuke Tsuji (“King Lear” at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, “Dralion” by Cirque du Soleil, Playhouse’s “American Night”) as Ti Miming/Cheng Bo;
Tony Award winner BD Wong (“M Butterfly” on Broadway, Playhouse’s “Herringbone”) as Cheng Ying.
The creative team includes Daniel Ostling, scenic designer; Linda Cho (Playhouse’s “Chaplin”), costume designer; Lap Chi Chu (Playhouse’s “Ruined”), lighting designer; Jake Rodriguez, sound designer; Byron Au Yong, original music; Stephen Buescher, movement director; Jonathan Rider, fight director; and Michael Paller, dramaturg.
Director Perloff recently celebrated her 20th year as artistic director of ACT, where she is known for directing innovative productions of classics and championing new writing. She has directed the American premieres of Tom Stoppard’s “The Invention of Love” and “India Ink” and Harold Pinter’s “Celebration,” among many others.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Wong is the only actor ever to have received all five major New York Theater awards for a single role. For his performance in David Henry Hwang’s “M. Butterfly,” his Broadway debut, he received the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Theater World Award, the Clarence Derwent Award, and the Tony Award.
Wong appeared in the NBC series “Awake,” where he played Dr. Lee, Det. Britten’s psychiatrist in the “red” reality. For 11 seasons audiences watched him on the top-rated series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” as Dr. George Huang, a forensic psychiatrist and expert on the criminal mind.
His additional New York theater credits include “The Tempest,” “A Language of Their Own,” “As Thousands Cheer,” the Broadway musical revival of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Pacific Overtures,” for which he received a Drama League nomination for distinguished performance.
He produced and directed “The Yellow Wood” for NYMF and Cindy Cheung’s “Speak Up Connie” for the All For One festival. He recently appeared in “Herringbone” at The McCarter Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, and the Williamstown Theater Festival. He is currently developing a new musical, “Heading East” by Leon Ko and Robert Lee.
Wong published his first book, “Following Foo: The Electronic Adventures of the Chestnut Man” (Harper Entertainment), which chronicles his son Jackson’s struggle for life after being born 11 weeks premature.
Wong gained notice as a cast regular on HBO’s critically acclaimed series “Oz,” playing the resilient prison priest Father Ray for the show’s five-season run. His other television credits include a co-starring role in ABC’s “All-American Girl” with Margaret Cho and HBO’s telefilm “And the Band Played On,” as well as guest-starring roles on “Welcome to New York,” “Chicago Hope,” “The X-Files,” “Bless This House” and “Shannon’s Deal” and appearing in the Hallmark miniseries “Marco Polo.”
Remaining showtimes for “Orphan of Zhao”:
Thursday, July 24 and July 31, at 8 p.m.
Friday, July 25 and Aug. 1, at 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 26 and Aug. 2, at 2 and 8 p.m.
Sunday, July 27 and Aug. 3, at 2 and 7 p.m.
Tuesday, July 29, at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 30, at 7:30 p.m.
For reservations and more information, call (858) 550-1010 or visit www.lajollaplayhouse.org.