P R E S S
Best of 2019 List: Exeunt Magazine
"★★★★★ (CRITICS PICK): (an) extraordinary new play... Passage dares to raise questions that make the audience profoundly uncomfortable, but simultaneously creates a welcoming space to which everyone is invited. Unashamedly political yet deeply humane, it’s a difficult journey that is well worth the trouble." - Regina Robbins, Time Out New York
"Christopher Chen’s tense, fascinating Passage is a delicate walk through a field of landmines... More than anything, he wants our active participation, our willing personal soul-searching, no matter how tough things get... Passage leans into its own possibly insoluble complexities and keeps making its way forward and down... The heartbreak and the horror of Passage is in watching the steady, seemingly logical process of isolation that results from the accumulation of 'private wounds.'" - Sara Holdren, New York Magazine/Vulture ; NY Mag Approval Matrix: Highbrow/Brilliant
"Christopher Chen’s exquisite and mystical Passage being produced by the Soho Rep is inspired by E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, borrowing its plot and character relationships. But while Forster’s novel was simply about the British colonization of India, Chen has something bigger in mind... in this age of nations all over the world cracking down on immigrants and immigration, the play is an investigation into our complicated feelings about The Other." - Victor Gluck, TheaterScene.net
"Exquisitely theatrical... These jolting reversals of tone are guaranteed to raise your heart rate. They are also crucial reminders that the subjects discussed so abstractly and serenely here can assume a violent, visceral charge. The darkness from which thoughts are formed, it seems, is as dangerous as it is fertile" - Ben Brantley, The New York Times
"... bristlingly contemporary... a lucid and intellectually nimble investigation into colonialism and the politics of privilege." - Laura Collins Hughes, The New York Times
"Tremendously compelling... thanks largely to Mr. Chen’s considerable technical skill as a playwright. In his hands, 'Passage' efficiently crystalizes highly nuanced issues and situations with scalpel-like precision, resulting in pointedly realized scenes. Suffice to say, Mr. Chen’s play drew me almost immediately with their superbly articulated narrative and perspectives..." - Adrian Dimanlig, Interludes
"Christopher Chen’s Passage is an enigmatic play, but the plot is made crystal clear by the playwright’s great care with every word, as well as Saheem Ali’s brilliant direction... The play asks difficult questions that call to mind colonialism in Asian countries, in South Africa, as well as the different levels of privilege people enjoy in America even when they share the level of being “native” to the land... a play that needs to be absorbed with care, as well as attention." - Ran Xia, Exeunt Magazine
"Chen’s use of the letters X and Y gives him enormous freedom, and he uses it to powerful effect. That’s also true of the dozen lettered characters on stage...It’s a credit to Chen’s powers as a writer that each of these encounters immediately engages, and in under an hour, he establishes a wide panorama of a society under siege but still functioning..." - Robert Hofler, The Wrap
"... an unflinching look at the toxic effects of structural racism in modern America. Shifting between conversational philosophy, gut wrenching action, and university style lecture, Passage bulldozes the fourth wall, challenging the audience to actively connect with what they are seeing. It is a powerful and profoundly enlightening experience." - Rebecca Rendell, Talkin' Broadway
"No matter what one’s experience with oppression and power, this is a show that can be understood and appreciated on a very wide array of levels. Passage should not be missed by anyone. It is shows like this that make theater so important." - Amanda VanNostrand, thetheatreguide.com
New York Times Profile: Truth, Lies and Chinese Art Inspire 'a Puzzle Box of a Play'
New York Times Critics Pick
Obie Award for Playwriting, 2017
Drama League Nomination: Outstanding production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play, 2017
2015 Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play
PHINDIE 2014/2015 CRITICS' AWARDS: BEST NEW PLAY Read More...
One of the Top Ten Shows of 2016
- New York Theater
- Theater Dogs
- The Stranger
New York Times Critics Pick: "An intricately constructed, unrelentingly destabilizing puzzle of a play about the anatomy of truth and the provocative power of illusion… As perceived realities dissolve, the one thing spectators can be sure of is that they are inside a production that is also a kind of art installation, and that it is messing with them. " - Laura Collins-Hughes, The New York Times
"... a smart, self-assured meditation on the politics of truth, in art and in life… Truth isn't just relative and medium-specific, Chen shows us; it's racialized and nationalized, sorted into categories according to how closely it conforms to what we already believe. There's a frame around every fact, Chen suggests. Theater, an art form in which no one's who they say they are, helps us see it." - Miriam Felton-Dansky, The Village Voice
"... cunningly clever... The feeling is akin to waking up from a dream, only to find oneself in another dream." - Zachary Stewart, TheaterMania
"Messes with your head in the most exquisite of ways...The show is in places very funny, but it also has some thought-provoking things to say about truth and lies and perception..." - Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater
"... a funny, stimulating evening that urges us all to think twice before spouting the received ideas that make us feel comfortable with ourselves... Christopher Chen is a real find." - David Barbour, Lighting and Sound America
" ****... The execution couldn't be better... At each turn, the play and its form shows us how our reaction to a lie is more a matter of ego than truth." - Helen Shaw, Time Out New York
"Satiric without being didactic... A lively rumination on the truth claims of various intellectual pursuits…Chen finds both humor and pathos in the position of artists in an age of science and technology." - Charles Wright, CurtainUp
"Like a set of Chinese nesting boxes, Caught, San Francisco playwright Christopher Chen's intriguing, satirical mind bender about truth, lies, cultural appropriation, censorship, and subversive art, keeps shapeshifting as it goes ever deeper into its intellectually bubbling core." - Samuel L. Leiter, Theatre's Leiter Side
"The play is brilliant at inducing a kind of moral weightlessness, never quite letting us settle on solid ground... " - Hyperallergic
"Christopher Chen’s enjoyably manipulative new play keeps finding ingenious ways to pull the rug out from under the audience’s feet... Form follows function in director Lee Sunday Evans’s clever production, which starts bamboozling theatregoers before they even reach their seats." - The New Yorker
" ... one of the smartest, most cynical, heartwrenching, brainteasing comedies I've seen in a long while... a brilliant InterAct premiere." Read More...
- Toby Zinman, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"... a hands-down winner." Read more...
- Howard Shapiro, Newsworks
"... and then Chen’s play explodes into another dimensional layer, and another and another. I daren’t spoil it — the ride is just too thrilling... (a) brilliant premiere." Read more...
- Mark Cofta, Philadelphia City Paper
"... (a) superb world premiere... a wonderfully absurd Russian doll of a play... complex and penetrating..." Read more...
- Christopher Munden, Phindie
"... smart, sardonic, and challenging, filled with twists and turns... It will leave you laughing, but also contemplating the nature of trust." Read more...
- Debra Miller, Phindie
"Even clever theater-savvy folk who think they have it all figured out and are hip to what’s going on in this mind-twisting play will experience something new here... The world has tipped slightly on its axis because of a play." - Chad Jones, Theater Dogs
"I'd count Caught as one of the four smartest, powerfulest, provocativest plays I've seen in this town since I took on the job of theater critic." - Rich Smith, The Stranger
"wildly inventive... You’ll leave with a better appreciation of life’s shifting perspectives, this Rubik’s Cube of reality." - Daryl H. Miller, Los Angeles Times
"I’d put good money on Caught being part of the canon for decades to come." - Noah J. Nelson, No Proscenium
"... pretty near a multimedia masterpiece... (a) wondrous work that surely defines next-level theater." - Lee Williams, The Oregonian
"Caught rewrites beliefs about what theater can and should be in real time." - Bennett Campbell Ferguson, Willamette Week
Best of 2016 List- Theater Dogs
"... the play is set in a series of living rooms (how appropriate), but its realm expands way beyond its setting. The concepts of multidimensionality that come up in the play truly are mind altering."
INTO THE NUMBERS
“★★★★. It is a critical cliche to call plays disturbing. But Into the Numbers, by the Chinese-American playwright Christopher Chen, genuinely is.” - Michael Billington, The Guardian
“★★★★. It's brutal in mood and feel, and at the same time, incredibly watchable.” - Alistair Wilkinson, BroadwayWorld UK
“★★★★... a brave play... Even on paper it’s clear this play is not going to be easy viewing. In reality it is even more harrowing than you could predict.” - Rob Warren, Everything Theatre
“★★★★… harrowing… the play explores with sophistication philosophical arguments about the human psyche and behaviour… enlightening and leaves you overwhelmed.” - Phoebe Cole, Spy in the Stalls
“★★★★… a play of ideas, particularly the nature of history and how we construct meaning…” - David Weir, London Pub Theatres
“★★★★★… powerful and shocking… wonderful rich writing that manages to explore the wider human condition with a focus on denial, forgiveness, moral courage, media and motherhood… It’s a bleak tale that needs telling so long as humanity repeats a spiral of disturbances.” - Paul Hegarty, Theatre Bubble
“★★★★… its relevance is overwhelming.” - James Prestridge, Prestridge Squared
“★★★★... dreamlike yet heartbreaking…” - Paul in London
“... hair-raising… heartbreaking… In the end, Into the Numbers celebrates a writer who, for the best of reasons, thought that we must stare difficult facts in the face if we are ever to move forward as human beings…” - Paul Taylor, The Independent
“...powerful and demanding… Chen’s ambition is bracing… impressively intellectual, layered and invigorating.” - Edward Lukes, Once a Week Theatre
“Christopher Chen’s sensitive script cares about conveying the atrocity, as far as words even can, but also cares deeply for the figure at the centre of this play.” - Frey Kwa Hawking, A Younger Theatre
"In just 90 minutes, the pair raise an almost bewildering array of questions about personal attachment, innate moral codes, and collective memory..." - James Fitzgerald, The Londonist
“... achieves moments of hallucinatory power.” - Alex Ramon, The Reviews Hub
YOU MEAN TO DO ME HARM
"Such is the master craftsmanship of local playwright Christopher Chen... lines layer in a whole world of assumptions about race, class, gender, nationality and morality, while also, unlike so much contemporary playwriting, sounding like conversations real people would actually have... searing honesty... the harms its characters inflict are ones you, with either schadenfreude or masochism or a little of both, thrill to witness." - Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle
"witty and suspenseful... As always with a Chen play, the plot is completely unpredictable, altogether an intricate, but never frustratingly obtuse, puzzle." - Jean Schiffman, San Francisco Examiner
"Masterful... The depth of anger and insecurity and dishonesty (subconscious or not) that comes up in both of the play’s relationships is astonishing, and the level to which Chen is able to take us in such a short time is remarkable." - Chad Jones, Theater Dogs
"... lean, mean, and meticulously crafted drama... Any assumptions an audience member may have made at the beginning of the play are shredded with clinical precision... Chen has always had a strong skill for crafting dialogue, but in this play he seems to have broken through to a new level." - George Heymont, Huffington Post
"That dual awareness—of the personal and political—makes Chen’s play brilliant—and more groundbreaking than we can imagine." - Barry David Horwitz, Theatrius
"In Chen’s script, racism isn’t a straight line with a clear end-point; it’s a Möbius strip constantly twisting back, around, and into itself. I’m hard-pressed to recall a dramatic work (except for maybe Get Out) that so accurately captured the differences between Whites and PoC in talking about racism... Grade: A." - The Thinking Man's Idiot
"Seemingly innocuous comments made at that dinner have a strange and devastating ripple effect on the lives and relationships of all concerned, raising all kinds of thorny issues of race, gender roles, nationality and trust." - Sam Hurwitt, The Mercury News
"There aren’t many plays like this... perhaps what is most compelling is that these four individuals stand in, as in the best art, for all of us." - Frank H. Wu, Huffington Post
"... (a) tricky Rubik's Cube of a comic drama. In 90 brainteasing minutes, a prickly initial dinner conversation between two well-to-do straight couples is twisted, turned and imaginatively reconfigured... While Chen's maneuvers are elaborate, his dramatic architecture remains sharply drawn and structurally sound." - Jim Gladstone, Bay Area Reporter
"If ever I have seen a play recently that my immediate reaction is “I need to see this one again,” it is this San Francisco Playhouse’s production of Christopher Chen’s You Mean to Do Me Harm" - Theatre Eddys
"… a series of ever more complex and enlightening encounters, illuminating the cultural and personal mine fields in which they operate…. “Chekovian” in the best sense. a humorous, relevant, intellectually stimulating play." - Charles Kruger, Theatrestorm
"Chen’s clever, stylish script somehow manages to be realistic (the characters’ conversations are entirely believable) while also exploring the many undercurrents of human emotions and interactions." - Leslie Katz, San Francisco Examiner
"The suspense is consuming, and the play is captivating all the way through. “You Mean to Do Me Harm” is an entirely smart look into human conversations and how different cultural backgrounds complicate them. The play is seemingly an examination of the everyday lives of these couples yet uses a magnifying glass to do so. The result is an intricate analysis into how these couples interact and will leave you thinking about your own conversations long after you leave the theater." - Nikki Munoz, Daily Cal
THE LATE WEDDING
One of the top ten shows of 2014
- A Beast in a Jungle
"... beguiling and relentlessly inventive... another of Chen’s slyly metatheatrical, blissfully funny, whiplash-smart creations. It’s a roller-coaster ride... as the visual layers of Wolf’s stagings deepen, so too do the comic, emotional and psychological resonances of Chen’s theatrical hall of mirrors." Read More...
- Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle
"... you gotta see this funny, brilliant play." Read More...
- Jean Schiffman, San Francisco Examiner
"... one of the best plays I’ve seen this year, creating some serious magic during its 85 minutes." Read More...
- John Marcher, A Beast in the Jungle
"... as smart as it is funny and as challenging as it is intriguing." Read More...
- Chad Jones, Theater Dogs
"Get Ready for another #ChenMindFuck"
- Lily Janiak, S.F. Weekly (twitter)
"... seductive... provocative... a swirling nebula of magical notions." Read More...
- David Siegel, DCMetro Theater Arts
" ***** (highest rating) ... Until the end, when, using all it’s learned, the audience gets to understand its final exquisite moments." Read More...
- Marshall Bradshaw, DC TheatreScene
SF Chronicle Profile
SF Weekly Profile
AULIS: AN ACT OF NIHILISM IN ONE LONG ACT
(U.C. Berkeley Production)
"...overflows with the absurdity of war... director Morita and her 14-member cast tread delicately on that ever-shifting line between barbed comedy and complex, human drama. Nihilism has rarely been so enjoyable." - Chad Jones, Theater Dogs
One of the top ten shows of 2014
- Chad Jones Theater Dogs
"... hilariously pointed... meaty, irreverent... voluminous laughs... [Chen] never seems to work on only one level. Here, he twists us into knots all the way down to how we talk about talking about race... Any play that can convey the plight of an "invisible minority" as incisively as "Mutt" does, in a single excruciating sight gag, is a major - and highly entertaining - accomplishment." Read More...
- Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle, May 10, 2014
"... absolutely hilarious and crazy smart... Chen is the kind of writer who delights and provokes and digs deep with intelligence and inspiration... a rollicking satirical comedy with grand guffaws and so many great lines the whole thing ends up feeling like a great line – but the brains are bolstering every belly laugh." Read More...
- Chad Jones, Theater Dogs, May 10, 2014
"Playwright Christopher Chen seems to have found a way to bottle this inspirational lightning and put it on stage in a wonderfully crazy, seemingly out-of-control political comedy." Read More...
- Pat Craig, San Jose Mercury News, May 15, 2014
"... very, very funny... smart and downright hilarious..." Read More...
- Sam Hurwitt, The Idiolect, May 26, 2014
"... blisteringly satirical... By far the wittiest treatise on race to come down the pike in a long time..." Read More...
- Harry Duke, For All Events, June 6, 2014
"Mutt packs a stellar, searing punch, underscoring the ridiculousness of our seemingly progressive times and our misguided assumptions about, well, everyone." Read More... (WARNING: Spoilers!)
- Anna Pulley, East Bay Express, May 7, 2014
THE HUNDRED FLOWERS PROJECT
WINNER: 2012 Glickman Award
WINNER: 2012 Rella Lossy Award
NOMINATED: 2013 Steinberg Award
SHORTLISTED: 2013 James Tait Black Award
ONE OF THE TOP PRODUCTIONS OF 2012
- San Francisco Chronicle Read more...
- The Idiolect Read more...
- San Francisco Bay Guardian Read more...
- Theater Dogs Read more...
"... two hours of hairpin-turn paradigm shifts make for some very exciting theater in the world premiere that opened Monday at Crowded Fire Theater’s new Thick House home... By the end, their play-within-a-world-within-a-play has brought Pirandello storming the 21st century boards with unsettling comic twists. Developed and produced with Playwrights Foundation, “Flowers” revels in a mixed-media meta-theatricality that unfolds its unexpected twists with sharp clarity. As the live and onscreen action spins out of control, Chen and director Desdemona Chiang keep the themes and possible plots fully accessible... “Flowers” marks local playwright Chen as a talent to keep an eye on." Read More...
- Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle, October 30, 2012
"It doesn’t matter how much I talk about The Hundred Flowers Project; there’s no way I can adequately capture the dueling senses of chaos and exquisitely crafted architecture that make up Christopher Chen’s play, which in its own way is as ambitious as the mammoth theatrical project that the characters in it are creating... It’s a technically dazzling play, even an important one, that’s all the more impressive because it doesn’t take itself too seriously—Chen fascinates us with its tangled metatheatrical narrative and then wins us over entirely by poking fun at it. Anyone who doesn’t rush out to join this revolution is automatically suspect." Read More...
- Sam Hurwitt, The Idiolect, October 30, 2012
"Chen’s vision — linking the power of Mao’s reign with Facebook’s dominance — is at once hilariously satirical and ominous." Read More...
- Jean Schiffman, San Francisco Examiner, November 1, 2012
"There’s something utterly primal about the premise of this Crowded Fire/Playwrights Foundation co-production: members of a San Francisco theater collective gather to create, in the most organic, zeitgeist-melding way, a dazzling piece of theater about the life and rule of Mao Tse Tung that has deep metaphorical connection to our own times... Chen’s script makes some tricky twists and turns throughout its swift two acts dispatched in just over an hour and a half. There’s some deep intelligence at work here..." Read More...
- Chad Jones, Theater Dogs, October 30, 2012
"... (a) sprawling, Orwellian tour de force..." Read More...
- Nicole Gluckstern, SF Bay Guardian, November 7, 2012
"Chen's new play is an extremely challenging work whose theatrical concept is framed by a mash-up of emerging technology that will leave you with plenty of food for thought." Read More...
- George Heymont, Huffington Post, November 10, 2012
"Chen's intricately crafted play is a mashup of a Pirandellian mindgame, a metatheatrical play-within-a-play and an ominous social critique of the Facebook age... an audacious mixed media satire that's extensively researched but never takes itself too seriously. The play's many paradigms constantly shift beneath our feet forcing the audience to re-evaluate our relationship to art, politics and the social media zeitgeist as reality explodes into bloodshed... (Chen) has a fresh and fearless voice and he's not afraid to tackle epic issues and complicated tropes." Read More...
- Karen D'Souza, San Jose Mercury News, January 22, 2013
"The meta theater embedded in the script showed a fresh and challenging voice. This script broke the fourth and fifth wall of the theater formally, but it was also in the end a moving, beautiful play with great characters. I think this is where theater can be the most potent, taking the theater moment and flipping it to reveal truths about our lives, catching the audience off guard and allowing them to see the world differently." Read More...
- Mark Russell, Artistic Director of Under the Radar Festival
THE WINDOW AGE
“... meticulously crafted... The Window Age is a challenging piece of theater, uncompromisingly written for intelligent minds. If you're the kind of playgoer who prefers dramatic substance to a whole lot of smoke and tinsel, you'll find Chen's new psychodrama to be a probing, intimate and rewarding theatrical experience.”
- George Heymont, myculturallandscape.com 3/2/09
“‘The Window Age’ is a psychological thriller, a suspenseful, intriguing, multi-level thought-evoking work that will leave you spellbound… This is absolutely a brilliant piece of writing, a challenge and an epiphany for one who enjoys new revelations in playwriting.”
- Charles Jarrett, Rossmoor News 3/18/09
“… a triumph… The Window Age brings up questions of mortality, isolation, intimacy and the attempt to represent, understand, come to grips with it all--and the tangled identity of individuals with their own ways of dealing with it, their own reckoning. The answers its characters seek never emerge, but the way in which their searching and even their misunderstandings mesh together becomes a dance—of life, of death.”
- Ken Bullock, Berkeley Daily Planet 2/26/09
“Una obra excelente, muy recomendable para jóvenes y adultos. The Window Age es un tour al inconciente humano”
- Mario Echevarria, SF Tribune 2/28/09
"The playwright builds a fascinating wormhole-ridden world of competing realities; dreams rub shoulders with memories; and memories tickle the shadows of half-remembered truths.”
- Chloe Veltman, ArtsJournal 3/6/09
“Under Gary Graves’ superb direction, The Window Age re-imagines the emergence of modernist thought in the aftermath of World War I…with guffaw-producing humor, uncanny third dimension sub-consciousness and moving passion...”
- Kathryn Abajian, The Piedmont Post