'Chinglish' Opens On Broadway
by JEFF LUNDEN
Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Henry Hwang's new play Chinglish opens on Broadway after a sell-out run in Chicago. Author of the hit play M. Butterfly, Hwang is back to exploring the complexities of the clash of Asian and American cultures.
MELISSA BLOCK, host: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. Playwright David Henry Hwang explored the clash of cultures between East and West in "M. Butterfly," his Tony Award-winning play set in 1960s China. He revisits those themes in a new play opening tonight on Broadway. It's called "Chinglish." And as Jeff Lunden reports, instead of a period piece, this time, it's ripped from the headlines.
JEFF LUNDEN: "Chinglish" starts with a PowerPoint presentation. An American businessman named Daniel is talking about the challenges of doing business in China. One of the biggest is Chinglish, the sometimes wildly funny, sometimes terribly inaccurate translations from Chinese to English, says playwright David Henry Hwang.
DAVID HENRY HWANG: And I think there's a whole kind of subculture of ferreting out Chinglish signs. The first one that we show in the play is to take notice of safe, the slippery are very crafty, which is a sign that means slippery slopes ahead.
LUNDEN: And with that, the audience gets to watch Daniel in flashback negotiate those slippery slopes and occasionally fall on his face. He's trying to convince Chinese bureaucrats to hire his Cleveland, Ohio, company to make English signs for a new cultural center in a provincial capital. Director Leigh Silverman was working with David Henry Hwang on a play a few years ago when he approached her about "Chinglish." He told her...
LEIGH SILVERMAN: I have this idea. I don't know if it's going to work. It's a kind of "Glengarry Glen Ross," but it's romantic, and it's set in Guiyang, China, and I want the characters to have their dignity of their own language. I want them to speak in Chinese. And it's a comedy. And I thought, OK, great, a bilingual sex comedy, sounds really fun.
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