Recently, I ordered a Manhattan in Chinatown. My server had limited language skills to handle an off-the-menu beverage request. I thought I did pretty well describing the drink until it arrived at the table with an olive in it. Goodman Theatre presents CHINGLISH. An Ohio businessman struggles to negotiate a deal with the Chinese minister. He speaks no Chinese. The minister speaks no English. They both rely heavily on their interpreters to communicate. Unfortunately, one translator is screwing up the message, the other one may be screwing up the deal and two people are just screwing. In either language, the spoken word is hilarious! CHINGLISH is the word for funny! READ ON OR LISTEN to Audio Podcast at ITUNES Chicago Theatre Reviews for Week of July 1st Narrated by Joshua Volkers
Playwright David Henry Hwang is a perfect translator! He gets Americans. He gets the Chinese. He doesn’t discriminate in making fun of either. Hwang seals the deal with witty dialogue and plot twists. Under the direction of Leigh Silverman, the comedy is found in translation. At one point, James Waterston (Daniel) says to Jennifer Lim (Xu Yan) ‘say it in English.‘ An exasperated Lim complains ‘it’s too hard!’ And she is right! I’d much rather hear Lim speak her native tongue and I’ll read the projected English words. Not only is the Chinese language beautifully lyrical, Lim’s real sentiments are hilarious! In Chinese, Lim says what she really thinks. Waterston derives his interpretation from her nonverbal cues. Together, they charm with an unexpected fusion. The entire talented ensemble converse with bi-lingual word play. Understanding the misunderstanding is outstanding! The more the characters suffer in translation, the more amused I am.
This show is funny enough to hold its own as just a staged reading. The script and acting is Great Wall of China solid! Luckily for us, that wasn’t enough for the Goodman. Set designer David Korins was enlisted to create a Chinese masterpiece. Korins splits rooms on two revolving platforms. Restaurant, boardroom, lobby, bedroom, each room is sleek and contemporary. The amazing spectacle is the rooms are actualized by synchronized rotation. Each half of a room pivots into into its other half. I’m not doing it justice in description. Suffice to say, it’s one of the coolest sets I’ve ever seen. At one point, during the revolution of the rooms, Waterston walks through the revolving doors, onto the elevator and comes out in the bedroom. It is so Mu Shu Pork! That is the only phrase i know in Chinese that describes something fantastic!
Following YELLOW FACE’s opening, CHINGLISH is the second show in the Chicago summer of Tony Award-winning Playwright David Henry Hwang. The triple play continues in August with FAMILY DEVOTIONS by Halycon Theatre. Hwang bridges the cultural divide penning Asian-themed entertainment. Welcome to Chicago, Mr. Hwang! We’re glad you are here for the summer.The boy next door, Eddie describes it with ‘captivating, visually stunning’!
Running Time: Two hours includes an intermission
At 170 N. Dearborn
Written by David Henry Hwang
Directed by Leigh Silverman
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays at 2pm
EXTENDED Thru July 31st Buy Tickets
Broadway in NYC Fall 2011
Production photography courtesy of Eric Y. Exit.