Friday again, and time for my weekly Wall Street Journal drama-column teaser. I reviewed three plays in this morning’s paper, two of which are off-Broadway productions, the Ma-Yi Theater Company’s No Foreigners Beyond This Point, a play by Warren Leight (he wrote Side Man), and the Mint Theater Company’s Walking Down Broadway, a previously unproduced 1931 play by Dawn Powell. The third is A Naked Girl on the Appian Way, Richard Greenberg’s new comedy:
“No Foreigners Beyond This Point” [is] a sharply pointed, similarly autobiographical play about Andrew and Paula (Ean Sheehy and Abby Royle), a pair of wide-eyed American liberals who move to China in 1980 to teach English and find themselves swept up in the wake of Mao Tse-tung’s Cultural Revolution.
“No Foreigners” is the last show I ever expected to see at the Culture Project, a downtown redoubt of theatrical leftism. Though it starts out funny, it soon toughens up into a hard-edged portrait of two pink-diaper babies forced to face the dire implications of their parents’ political folly. Would that Mr. Leight had skipped the Neil LaBute-like what-it-all-means coda, but for the most part he lets his material speak for itself, never more eloquently than in the startling admission made to Paula by the toadying Vice Principal Huang (Francis Jue): “Curry favor. Always. Curry favor by betraying friends. I think at most, in China, everyone can have one or two friend. At most. Even those, you might not trust when times are rough.”…
“Walking Down Broadway” is a period piece, one from whose period we are now far removed, and as such oddly poignant in its effect. Considered solely as a hitherto-unknown piece of writing by America’s greatest comic novelist, it’s as uneven as you’d expect–you can all but hear Powell fishing for the right tone–but [Christine] Albright is wonderfully touching as Marge, whom Powell fans will recognize as a rough sketch for the plucky New York