Heaven is High and the Emperor Far Away, a Play
Hock G. Tjoa
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This is the story of Shopkeeper Wang and the friends, the regulars, and the transients who visit the Yutai (Abundant Peace) Teahouse, a Beijing neighborhood institution, during the decades of the early twentieth century. The setting is intimate and the atmosphere, action and themes, Dickensian. The play is adapted from Teahouse by Lao She (Shu Qingchun) Chinese original published in 1957. The original has been reduced from three acts, set over fifty years, with nearly seventy characters to a play in two acts set about twenty-five years apart with a cast of twenty (some multiple casting). It tries to reproduce as much as possible the characters and actions that Lao She created for a world of those living at the bottom edge of civility and into which corruption and exploitation roughly intrude. This is a world of the poor caught up in the spin-cycle of world historical change.