Chinese Friends 2004

Let's Get Social


by Jon Robin Baitz




The play is set in the year 2030, on a New England island compound inhabited by Arthur Brice (Peter Strauss), a former professor and politico living in comfortable, self-imposed exile from the decaying America that lies across the water. Washing up on his shores one day is his estranged college-dropout son Ajax (Tyler Francavilla), accompanied by two friends who share his free-thinking, free-loving ways. They’re a new breed: hippie nihilists. It’s not long before the generation gap is sparking feisty debates about the state of the country that clue us in to both Brice’s past and Baitz’s vision of America’s immediate future. Back in ’08, Brice was a policy adviser to an administration that tried but failed to reverse the “arrogant policies” of prior presidents “that have caused so much human suffering.” Their failure left the “dynasty of cowboys and corporate criminals” in charge, and the world is now in ruins: “The United Nations has collapsed, Social Security is gone, people are fighting wars over clean water … .”




Opening & Closing Dates
Type & Version
May 25, 2004 – Jun 13, 2004
Play / Original
Playwrights Horizons , NY, USA


Opening Night Cast


Name Role
Tyler Francavilla Ajax
Will McCormack Stephan
Peter Strauss Arthur Brice
Bess Wohl Alegra


Opening Night Production Credits


Playwrights Horizons, Producer
Tim Sanford, Artistic Director
Leslie Marcus, Managing Director
Jon Robin Baitz, Playwright
Obadiah Eaves, Original Music
Robert Egan, Director
Joseph Travers, Fight Director
Santo Loquasto, Set Designer
Laura Bauer, Costume Designer
Donald Holder, Lighting Designer
Obadiah Eaves, Sound Designer
William Russo, General Manager
James Latus, Production Stage Manager
Athena Gam, Assistant Stage Manager
Christopher Boll, Production Manager
James Calleri, Casting


Critical Reception


The sci-fi flavor of ”Chinese Friends” doesn’t mask the feeling that it is made up of leftovers of other, better Baitz works, of recycled themes boiled down to bare bones. As in ”Substance” and ”Unknowns,” Mr. Baitz pits a formidable, ethically elusive man against three members of a younger generation. And while this playwright is, as always, to be commended for refusing to side unconditionally with any of his characters, there is little psychological credibility in their portrayal here.

Nor, aside from the suave Mr. Strauss, who brings a steely spark to Brice’s contained coldness, are the performers remotely persuasive, leaning instead toward a stilted delivery that suggests that youth and spontaneity do not, after all, go together. :NY Times 05/28/2005


External Links


Chinese Friends Full New York Times Review

Chinese Friends at Off Broadway Lortel Archives Database