Luo Shen (The Legend of the River Luo) is about the tragic consequences of war, even on the victors. It is set around 200 C.E., in the family of Cao Cao, who was Prime Minister to the last Han emperor during the decline of the mighty first Chinese Empire. The play is written and directed by Joanna Chan and will be performed in Mandarin and English, with English subtitles accompanying the Chinese passages.
The play deals notably with the forbidden love between Cao Zhi and Zhen Mi, the captive widow of a rival warlord. Cao Zhi was the youngest son of Cao Cao and a brilliant poet. Zhen Mi was unjustly chosen by his father to be wife of his brother, Cao Pi, the future Emperor. Cao Zhi immortalized Zhen Mi in verse as Luo Shen, the spirit of the River Luo.
The reign of the Han Dynasy was a golden age when the Middle Kingdom was united for the first time into a single country. Philosophy, letters and the arts were highly developed and appreciated. After Han, China deteriorated into squabbling petty kingdoms, invasions and disorder lasting 400 years. The changing relationships between the father and the two sons are reflected in the history of the time, which in turn shape the individuals' destiny. Romantic and political intrigues lead to the failure of one son, the perhaps undeserved success of the other, and ultimately the fall of the Han dynasty. Cao Pi became king of Wei, and so
began the Epoch of the Three Kingdoms--a much romanticized but unprofitable time for China. Cao Zhi died in exile.
Cao Cao, Cao Pi and Cao Zhi were all distinguished poets and patrons of literature besides fierce warriors on the battlefield. This stage version was constructed around their writings, one of which was known as "The poem composed in seven paces," which form the climactic scene of the play. Cao Zhi likens his brother's relentless hostility towards him to beans being cooked over a fire made from beanstalks: both from the same root. The story of Luo Shen has thus come down through the ages as a symbol of brother against brother, like the western legend of Cain and Abel.
This production is based on an earlier Chinese version of Luo Shen that Joanna Chan wrote and directed in 1975 with her other theater company, The Four Seas Players, in NYC. That play was constructed around the well-known poems by Cao and his son, Zhi., in the style of the traditional shuo shu, where a lone storyteller, usually self-accompanied with a small drum or a string instrument, provides an entire night's entertainment to the common people with an episodic narrative.
The principal parts are acted by: William YueKun Wu (Cao Zhi), YiLing Li (Zhen Mi), Master Fang YuLin (General Cao Cao) and Shawn Deng (Cao
The cast also includes: Shen Mo, Jenny Hsia, Sophie Li, David Shen, Xiao YunFei, Sam Sung, Deng Yu, Xin Yuan and six-year-old Solomon Chang. The chorus masters are Zhao NaiYi, Xiao YunFei and Andrei Drooz.
Choreography is by Master Zhao Naiyi and David Shen. Set design is by Peter Spack. Lighting design is by Joe Hodge. Costumes are designed and made in China by HouJian Xu, resident designer of GuangZhou Theater Company in GuangZhou, China.
Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America Web Site
Detailed schedule information:
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm
Sunday at 3:00 pm