New York | 1h 40m | Already closed

The Great Leap

From 17 critic and 48 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Great writing, Absorbing, Entertaining, Clever

About the show

Inspired by events from her father’s life and (short-lived) basketball career, playwright Lauren Yee ('The Hatmaker’s Wife') makes her Atlantic debut with this new cross-cultural drama. More…

San Francisco, spring 1989. Manford Lum, locally renowned on the sidewalk basketball courts of Chinatown, talks his way onto a college team, just before they travel to Beijing for a “friendship” game. When they arrive, China is in the throes of the post-Cultural Revolution era, and Manford must juggle international politics and his own personal history.

1h 40m | Already closed | Atlantic Theater Stage Two (Chelsea)


"Yee - who reportedly drew her inspiration from some real-life events experienced by her father -- has created a two-act work that manages to enlighten us about history without being pedantic and move us as people without being overly sentimental. If basketball (the ostensible subject of the play) had a four-point shot, this play might be its theatrical equivalent." Full Review

Front Row Center

“By turns funny and intense, 'The Great Leap' is an intimate story played out on a world stage. The play is wonderfully written, well structured and considered very moving. The actors give consistently excellent performances...Ahn, as Connie exudes warmth...As Chang, BD Wong is riveting. His every moment burns with longing. Speaking in a quiet measured tone he is nonetheless intense and remarkably present...’The Great Leap’ speaks of ambition and overreach — and the power of idealism." Full Review


“The plot is quite predictable. But Yee handles the development of the plot and characters with so much aplomb that the audience is more than happy to take those leaps with her. There is humor throughout, even in the tensest scenes...While the turns in the story are frequently predictable, Yee’s writing is so crisp and dimensioned that we just go with its flow. The direction by Taibi Magar strikes a balance between the humor and the unraveling of the characters’ stories at an energized pace.” Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Although the topics of international diplomacy and competitive sports may seem like disparate themes, Yee’s fine writing and fiery wit allows the two subjects to intertwine effortlessly...Yee’s script is bolstered by the dynamic and seemingly effortless direction of Taibi Magar...It is BD Wong’s portrayal of Wen Chang that brings the play to its knees. His tender portrayal of a man who had survived both the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution feels stirring and soul-shattering." Full Review

New York Stage Review

“Thrilling basketball action with only one player, no basket, and barely a Spalding in site...Yee is in thorough control. She manages to mix the sweep of the Chinese and American dynamics, the humor of her borscht-belt-like Ugly American, and the harsh-but-tender family drama. And basketball...The performance of the evening, though, comes from Wong...I don’t know that I’ve seen him give such an affecting performance since ‘M. Butterfly.'” Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Smart, feisty, highly enjoyable...Here in Magar’s swift, punchy staging, anchored by four excellent performances, we feel the kind of up-and-down-the-court rush Yee is striving for...They don’t illustrate the game — rather, they help us imagine its stakes, its dangers, its magic...If 'The Great Leap' is a touch Hollywood-ish in its narrative neatness, it’s still an exhilarating, deeply satisfying piece of work, powered by gutsy performances and full of bright, inquisitive, humorous life." Full Review


"A moving, thoughtful story about parents, children, friendship, and love...It's a well-constructed plot in a well-conceived play. But the production really works because of its characters and the exceptional acting which brings them to life...For a 'basketball play,' there are a few odd times where the production seems curiously static. But these missteps are few and far between. For the most part, Yee's play is compelling and powerful, with performances (especially Wong's) to match." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“Magar, has handled her cast of newcomers and old pros deftly...Engaging as it is, ‘The Great Leap’ runs into trouble in its later passages, as things get increasingly tangled in the wildest coincidences...Still, the cast and dialogue are usually lively, and Wong gives one of the first notable performances of the new season. His quietly focused, witty, and often moving depiction of this complex character provides plenty of evidence that this fine actor still has plenty of game.” Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"The game not only brings Saul and Wen together again, it also introduces several melodramatic plot devices...Even more contrived-but undeniably absorbing-is its nexus between sports and politics, since the game coincides with what was happening politically in China in June 1989…Regardless of its several implausibilities…and its need to depend on soliloquies for important exposition, 'The Great Leap'…holds you as tightly as a ball in Bill Russell's palm…The acting is uniformly exciting." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"Just good enough that one wishes it were better. Playwright Lauren Yee displays a knack for sketching vivid characters and situations with dramatic potential...The three male characters all get a chance to shine...The direction by Taibi Magar is unfussy. There are some fine moments, but they are too few." Full Review

Daily Beast

"Such a fluent piece of playwriting, set around a terrible and notorious historical event, that you will go home and Google elements of it immediately...If the play flags slightly when its political preoccupations overshadow the characters, it doesn’t seem a foul deserving of the referee’s whistle. The play is a believable encapsulation of history, and a respectful reclamation of the same." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“Yee draws some interesting parallels between sports and politics even though she's guilty of falling back on clumsy contrivances to advance her plotting...The absence of actual basketball playing isn't necessarily a problem—until it is. Magar keeps the action moving and her superb cast in motion...Despite its flaws, it's gratifying to see an innovative play hold up a mirror to sports and finds politics and our shared humanity reflected back.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“For the most part, ‘The Great Leap’ is a story well told. Three-dimensional characters, albeit with single defining traits, interact in ways that are sometimes very funny and consistently entertaining. The play’s surprise ending is a stretch. It’s set up well – enough information for you to see it coming; not so much as to be obvious – but the surprise itself seems contrived. Still, it provides insight into both Manford and Wen, who each obtain their own insight into themselves and each other.” Full Review

The New York Times

"Congested tale of two countries...Ambitiously straddles several well-worn narrative forms, and not without strain. The play is replete with the clichés of sports underdog nail-biters, angry-young-teen stories and roads-not-taken dramas of middle-age regret...But Ms. Magar keeps the more conventional machinery of “The Great Leap” moving at a well-oiled pace. And the performances are smooth and credible, even when the plot is not." Full Review

Time Out New York

"'The Great Leap' can feel hasty and overstuffed; there’s a whole prestige-TV season’s worth of big reveals crammed into her two hours. Yee's writing for Manford and his cousin Connie shows its expository effort, and her last-minute repurposing of real-world heroism is unintentionally offensive. Yet there’s a lot to applaud here. Yee knows how to make her characters seem like real people and Taibi Magar’s precise production has visual flair." Full Review


"Its kicker of a both surprising and makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, despite a fine company and a story with some spark to it, getting to that terrific ending is a bit of a trudge...At its best when comparing the two cultures' contrasting styles of play to their contrasting styles of life. But Yee's story seems too large and action-packed to be satisfactorily told in a four-character play. Too much is described rather than seen, which saps the piece of potential excitement." Full Review


for a previous production “'The Great Leap' occasionally skirts didacticism in the cross-cultural clashes it explores...Still, Yee's writing can be sharp and illuminating...There's much to admire in director Magar's economical yet handsome production...An entertaining history lesson, at the very least. But the character of Wen Chang offers something more: an affecting portrait of a man who finally realizes the emotional limits of his cultural and political loyalties." Full Review

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Riveting

See it if you want to see a unique story with unanticipated twists & turns; you want to see BD Wong on stage at his best; you enjoy drama with humor

Don't see it if you don't like small, intimate theaters; you only like musicals; excellent writing doesn't impress you; you're offended by 4 letter words

Absorbing, Great writing, Great acting

See it if BD Wong's tear-jerking act of a man surviving in Communist China decides to take a stand. Explores the love of a sport vs loved ones/family.

Don't see it if Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 / Communist China in the 70s/80 are triggering. Can't stand profanity.

Also Ticket from TodayTix app for $54. Last row, but view was fine in the s... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Profound

See it if You want to see an incredibly well balanced cast of amazing actors.

Don't see it if You are not interested in a play that deals with basketball and more importantly the crazy history of a communist country

Also I have been excited to see this play for a long time and I was not dis... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great acting, Clever

See it if You're interested in a new take on a historical event

Don't see it if Basketball absolutely bores you

Absorbing, Masterful, Great staging

See it if You have a strong interest in modern Chinese history' like BD Wong

Don't see it if You have a real problem when actors voices are unclear

Also I normally have a real problem with preposterous plots trying to pose ... Read more Read less

Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Hilarious, Intelligent

See it if I liked the show, I thought it was clever.

Don't see it if Anyone can see this show

Highly entertaining, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Great staging, Riveting

See it if you enjoy plays dealing with both basketball & an important historical event in China. BD Wong is giving an extraordinary performance.

Don't see it if you don't like plays dealing with historical events or other cultures.

Entertaining, Funny, Great writing, Intense

See it if you like a good story that is well written about recent historic events

Don't see it if you're looking for a fancy production with big scenic design

Also The only thing I felt like could be stronger was the acting. Sometimes... Read more Read less

Clever, Entertaining, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if you want to take a step back in time to 1989 and see the Tiananmen Square protests woven into a human interest story.

Don't see it if you have no interest in Chinese culture.

Energetic, Absorbing, Great acting, Talky, Relevant

See it if using a sports metaphor to stand in for the shifting power dynamics between the U.S. and China intrigues you.

Don't see it if a somewhat heavy playwriting hand will interfere with your enjoyment.

Also A slightly draggy, repetitive first act explodes in the second. While ... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Profound

See it if You enjoy plays based upon true stories and that are well done and engaging with unexpected twists in an intimate setting.

Don't see it if You prefer musicals and large theater productions.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Slow

See it if you love twists on historical events. All four actors were incredible, and the directing was really top-tier.

Don't see it if you're not highly interested in human stories revolving around historical events. This was incredible, but don't come looking for a comedy.

Great acting, Entertaining, Clever, Great writing

See it if For fast paced excellently acted play based on unusual subject matter- regardless of whether it's tcompletely historically accurate.

Don't see it if Don't like small theate experiences or small venues.

Enchanting, Intense, Funny, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if Fascinating contrast of Chinese vs American values in sports, family, and politics. Excellent characters, funny moments, and plot twists.

Don't see it if You would not enjoy a non-linear basketball themed show with Chinese chatacters, history and themes.

Great writing, Absorbing, Must see, Thought-provoking

See it if you know or are curious about events at Tianamen Square. This complex drama is about that & ever so much more.

Don't see it if you don't care for complex story lines or only like musicals.

Clever, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if interesting as it is based on a true story with Wang excellent

Don't see it if somewhat predictable and shallow but still worth seeing.

Chinese basketball twisty yarn

See it if Interesting drama of political history of US recognition of China to Tiananmen Sq -- overlain with sports diplomacy and family relations.

Don't see it if Tony Aidan Vo is the new BD Wong. You get to see both of these charismatic Chinese-American actors in the same play

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Intelligent

See it if Family and team bonds amid international diplomacy, set in Communist China 1971 & 1989. BD Wong as a basketball coach v USA.

Don't see it if You expect an elaborate set, action-packed sports, and perfect endings. No one has a reason to miss the messages in this play.

Also This play follows the story of a young Chinese-American player trying ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging, Intense

See it if you like little known historical stories; wonderful acting, staging and design; taught, stylized and emotional. Built around sports.

Don't see it if you don't like stories built around sports; you demand linear storytelling; you demand naturalistic acting and directing styles.

Clever, Absorbing, Slow in parts, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if / a great example of a micro story told well to get you to care about a macro story (in this case, the unrest in China in 1989).

Don't see it if you're in the mood for something splashy. This is actually kind of a quiet show, lots of two-person scenes.

Also Good performances all around, with special props to BD Wong and Ned Ei... Read more Read less

Clever, Confusing, Ambitious, Bd wong is the reason to go.

See it if If you like new works that play with conventions, and want to learn about a side of China you not familiar with.

Don't see it if If you don't like characters who are mouthpieces for a playwright.

Also This is a good effort from Lauren Yee. I got to see King of the Yees i... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Absorbing, Cliched, Smart direction

See it if you have a soft spot for sports/underdog stories; different takes on the American Dream; history that's not widely taught anywhere.

Don't see it if you expect analysis of current events. Chinese nationalists will have bones to pick here. Would be a mistake to think this tells all sides.

Also I was really touched in the end. The actors are fun to watch, BD Wong ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging, Thought-provoking

See it if You enjoy excellent theatre based on history

Don't see it if You dislike politically based theatre regarding historical events

Cliched, Relevant, Intense, Intelligent, Slow

See it if Yee's homage to her father is really a tale of two countries (includes a Dicken's reference) Well acted w/ solid dramaturgy yet lacks punch

Don't see it if Using game strategy (basketball) as metaphor for life; drama only ignites around Tiananmen Square events B D Wong's efforts help greatly

Intelligent, Energetic, Uneven, Great staging, Rather endearing

See it if Political events affect basketball & individual lives, cast during 1989 Chinese upheavals. Muliple stories mashed into the play create a

Don't see it if frenetic first act, disjointed from second; too many coincidences make entirety Implausible, but able performances & clever staging win out.

Cast & Creatives (12)