VOL. 24 - NO. 20
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TRAVEL & ENTERTAINMENBT: “The Great Leap” Scores Big Points with Its Tale of Hoop Dreams

Mar 15, 2019
by Russ Mowrer
In her history-teasing play “The Great Leap,” currently performing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater in San Francisco through March 31, playwright Lauren Yee tells the story of Manford (Tim Liu), a hungry Chinese-American 17-year-old basketball player who persuades a college coach to let him join his team for its impending trip to Beijing. The year is 1989.

Years earlier, Saul Slezac (Arye Gross), a foul-mouthed smack-talking American coach, took the American team for an exhibition game to China. But after Manford joins the American team, his actions in Beijing become the accidental focus of attention, escalating what is a fractured history between himself and the Chinese coach Wen Chang (BD Wong).

Coach Saul’s actions in Beijing become the accidental focus of attention, escalating the fractured history between the two coaches. There are some funny moments, but overall, this is a slam dunk of a sports drama that explores cultural identity and global politics.

“The Great Leap” ensemble isvery talented. Arye Gross aces the role of Saul, spitting out obscenities like tobacco juice. Expletives strafe his unseen squad and the audience. BD Wong as Wen is his opposite: polite, conflict-averse, and modest.

Scenic designer Robert Brill has resolved creates a set that re-creates a high-ceiling gymnasium and relies on an elevated room where Wen Chang has a view of the vast, soon-to-be-infamous Tiananmen Square from his hotel room.

“The Great Leap” soars through time and leaps across continents from the hardball courts of San Francisco’s Chinatown to a Beijing on the brink of a revolution, building tension right up to the buzzer.

Tickets are available by calling 415-749-2228 or visiting www.act-sf.org.

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Photo caption: Manford (Tim Liu, right) gives his pitch to Coach Saul (Arye Gross) in Lauren Yee’s “The Great Leap,” performing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater now through Sunday, March 31, 2019.


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