Kingston’s alter ego and the story’s main character, simply named Daughter (Liana Pai), is the eldest child of Chinese immigrants who run a laundry in Stockton. Her mother (Tsai Chin) was a doctor in China but now must clean houses , while her father (Soon-Teck Oh), who once was a poet and scholar, works long days in the laundry.
The narrative weaves back and forth between the life of the struggling immigrant family, the hardships of their village in China and the mythic story of the Woman Warrior. The narrative is a complex tapestry of myth and reality, of triumph and tragedy, told through the daughter’s dreams, her mother’s stories and the real incidents of the characters’ lives.
“Warrior” balances the traditional American family play with the grander, mythological epics of Asian theater.
The work has an epic feel, and director Ott deserves kudos for the staging, which makes fast and fluid transitions between the minimalism of Daughter’s Stockton reality and the spectacle and scope — with the music, choreography and acting styles of traditional Peking Opera — in Daughter’s dream state.
“Warrior” covers Daughter’s personal odyssey as she tries to resolve conflicts and contradictions between East and West.
There is not one weak performance. Soon-Teck Oh is memorable as the broken, disillusioned father, as is Luo Yong Wang as the youthful version of the character. And Kim Miyori is forceful and convincing as Fa Mu Lan, the warrior.
At the heart of the piece is Pai, who brings a straightforward honesty, simplicity and strength to the role of the daughter.
And Tsai Chin, the daughter of a great Peking Opera star, provides a transcendent bridge between the worlds of epic myth and stark reality; this is a finely honed performance by a gifted actress.
This production is graced with a minimalist set by Ming Cho Lee and awesome costumes by Susan Hilferty, as well as a fine musical score by Jon Jang and Liu Qi-Chao and choreography by Daniel Pelzig.
The pace of the evening does slow somewhat in the second act, which is the only quibble with adaptor Rogin’s script.
Although multiculturalism in theater often is an excuse for tired, politically correct drama, this play is an example of what is possible in the vibrant cultural crossroads that is America. The novel has had a long journey to the stage, beginning in the early ’80s when plans for a production at the Mark Taper Forum were scrapped because of script problems.