Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang: Tina Chen Stars in The Shanghai Gesture

The Shanghai Gesture has performances through May 17, at the Julia Miles Theatre in New York.

The Shanghai Gesture has performances through May 17, at the Julia Miles Theatre in New York.

The Mirror Repertory Company’s production of  John Colton’s The Shanghai Gesture, starring Tina Chen as Mother Goddam and Larry Pine as Sir Guy Charteris, opens tonight at the Julia Miles Theatre, 424 West 55th St in New York.

Written in 1918 and last produced in New York on Broadway in l926 THE SHANGHAI GESTURE is a 100-year-old historic American play that has always been controversial for its bold confrontation of still-relevant issues. Under the direction of Robert Kalfin, The Shanghai Gesture confronts issues of women’s rights, the sex trade, child abuse/slavery, and what happens when one country imposes its culture upon another. The cast also features Hyosun Choi, Helen Coxe, John Fitzgibbon, Nadia Gan, Allen Lewis Rickman, Jacey Powers, Seth Powers and Nick Sakai.

The Shanghai Gesture takes place in China in the roaring twenties when Shanghai was a truly cosmopolitan city filled with Russian refugees, its people exploited by opium traders and adventurers from all over Europe and Great Britain, and visited by American entrepreneurs. Tina Chen plays Mother Goddam, a Manchu princess shamed and discarded by an aristocratic English merchant and sold into sex slavery, who can never return to her home. A survivor, she has risen to great power and reputation within a complex society where she runs an elegant brothel frequented by governors, mandarins, and princes. Tonight there is great excitement, for she is having a dinner party – and society folk, the British and other European aristocrats and their wives are coming to dinner. Many secrets – those of each guest – are revealed, and the ultimate secrets – those of Sir Guy Charteris (Larry Pine) – literally change lives. Even Mother Goddam must face an unanticipated revelation of a secret of her own.

Golden Globe, Obie, and Emmy nominee Tina Chen is herself descended from an aristocratic Chinese family whose ancestry can be traced back to the Spring and Autumn period in Chinese history, which dates from 770-476 BC.  On the New York stage, Tina has had leading roles in Comfort Women, The Joy Luck Club, Arthur and Leila, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Family Devotions (by David Henry Hwang) among others. Her films include “The Hawaiians”, (opposite Charlton Heston) for which she received a Golden Globe nomination, “Alice’s Restaurant” directed by Arthur Penn, and “Three Days of the Condor” directed by Sydney Pollack. On TV, she has starred in numerous programs and was nominated for an Emmy Award for “The Final War of Olly Winter”.With sets by Michael Anania, costumes by Gail Cooper Hecht, sound and compositions by Margaret Pine and lighting by Paul Hudson.

Performances are Wednesday through Sundays thru May 17, 2009 . Wed – Sat at 8PM. Matinees are at 2PM on Saturday and 3PM Sundays, with additional Sunday performances at 7PM. Tickets $67, $52 and $21 for students and seniors, and are available by phoning (212) 239-6200 or by visiting

The Julia Miles Theatre is located at 424 West 55th Street in Manhattan.

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