Wednesday May 24th 2017

“CHINGLISH”

“What we have here is a failure to communicate”! This is a quite from the Paul Newman movie “Cool Hand Luke” ad could easily be the title of David Henry Hwang’s new comedy, “Chinglish” now having its World Premiere onstage at The Goodman Theatre. This is one of the funniest plays I have seen in awhile and one that will have you in hysterics almost for the entire two hours. Hwang tells us that the idea for this comic masterpiece came from visiting a new art center in China where all of the signage was badly translated and said things that one would never want said, to anyone! In his story, Daniel ( a powerful performance by James Masterson) is a businessman who  is lecturing to other businessmen about how they can grow their business by doing business with the countries that have growing economics. He then takes us back  to his first visit to Guiyang China.He is in the sign business and wants the contract on their new cultural center. What he learns is that his lack of understanding  the language is only part of the problem. Translators are unreliable and the consultant who has assured him that the contract is his, may in fact not be all that he is purported to be.  There are political difference in business in China and his consultant, Peter ( brilliantly handled by Stephen Pucci who handles Mandarin with an Australian accent and never misses a beat) has done a favor for the Minister ( Larry Zhang) which is why Peter can anticipate getting the job.

But the language barrier and the translators  never really say what is being said. We , of course get a better idea as the correct translations ( not word for word, but semi accurate) are on a screen. There are some great comic moments during these conversations, almost Abbott & Costello routines like “Who’s On First” ( for those of you unfamiliar with this one, Google it) as well as the final bedroom scene between Daniel and Xu Yan, the sexy and beautiful government employee ( deftly played by the sexy and beautiful Jennifer Lim, so much for type casting) who appears to be against him, but then falls into his arms, his heart and his bed.  She talks the talk and perhaps even walks the walk, but in the long run, has her own agenda.She is also married and her husband in a Judge ( Johnny Wu plays this role as well as Bing). There are seven actors  ( Angela Lin and Christine Lin are the other two ladies who appear to be many more in their various roles) under the keen direction of Leigh Silverman, who uses them to help keep the flow moving between scenes as well. The eighth player in this production would have to be the set. Wow!- David Korns and his people have created a powerful set on turntables or roller that change from scene to scene as if by magic; boardrooms, a hotel lobby, a swank restaurant and a dynamite hotel room, never missing a beat as if it was poetry in motion.

The costumes (Anita Yavich),lighting (Brian Macdevitt), Sound (Darron L. West ) and projections ( Jeff Sugg ) all add to the magic of this solid production. There are some little secrets in this show that I prefer not to give away so you can enjoy it for yourself, but Hwang makes use of the worldwide economy, the political scene of China, Enron, cultural ignorance truth and honesty to make us think about our own assumptions of what is expected of us when entering unknown places. Can we rely on what we know or even who we know to take us to that place we want to get to? This play will allow you to laugh at situations that you probably will never be faced with, but on the other hand, can’t what we learn from a story like this have an impact on our own ideas as to who we are, even without the language barrier? 

No matter what is going on in your life, personal or business, you deserve a few hours of escape and laughter, which is as they say “good for what ails you” and there is nothing a funny as this truly hysterical play, which will run at The Goodman Theatre located at 170 N. Dearborn through  July 24th with perofrmances as follows:

Wednesday,Thursday and Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m. (Tuesdays on 7/12 and 7/19) Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., matinees on Saturday and Sundays  at 2 p.m. ( Saturdays starting on July 9th) and  Thursday afternoons at 2 p.m. from 6/30-7/14)

Tickets range from $25-$73 and can be purchasd at the box office, by phone at 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org

Mezzanine half price tickets are available at the box office and online on day f performance as are 10TIX for $10 for students. Check the website for more information.

You might also be interested in Hwang’s other show in town, “Yellow Face” down the street at The Historic Chicago Temple, 77 West Washington ( through July 17th)

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