Ann Starbuck was in right place at the wrong time. As a 21-year-old American student in Beijing at the end of the ’80s, she experienced culture shock almost immediately, starting with the sarcastic and oft-spitting woman who converted her dollars to renminbi. By June 1989, Starbuck’s growing confidence in navigating the language and nuances of daily Chinese society landed her a freelance gig with CNN—just as the student-led, pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square reached their bloody climax. Structured as a series of interconnected remembrances and character studies, each more charismatic than the last, Starbuck’s solo play drifts occasionally toward sentimentality but never turns sappy. Well paced by director Richard Embardo, her stories are often terrific, from the tale of a cute jock who took her out for her birthday (partly to meet her roommate) to the final escapade, when she bribes a cabbie and outruns a police car to deliver a dying hunger-striker to and from a CNN interview. Starbuck has earned our attention, and maybe even our amazement. Time seems to have given her what the Chinese traditionally prize most: wisdom.—Leonard Jacobs
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