This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

1Dec/11

CHINGLISH

Vice Minister Xi Yan (Jennifer Lim) and sign maker Daniel Cavanaugh (Gary Wilmes) talk business and more in CHINGLISH

Longacre Theatre
220 West 48th St. between Broadway & Eighth Ave.
$31.50 - $126.50
www.chinglishbroadway.com

The current signage on Broadway is packed with some pretty major star power, with such names as Samuel L. Jackson, Kim Cattrall, Hugh Jackman, Stockard Channing, Alan Rickman, Marlo Thomas, Daniel Radcliffe, Angela Bassett, Harry Connick Jr., and others adorning various theater marquees. But don’t let that steer you away from a charming little show at the Longacre that might not feature big Hollywood names but still serves up quite a tasty treat. In Chinglish, Gary Wilmes stars as Daniel Cavanaugh, an American businessman who comes to the relatively small city of Guiyang, China — home to a mere four million people — to convince them that his Ohio company should make all the signs for their new state-of-the-art cultural center. With the help of British consultant Peter Timms (Stephen Pucci), Cavanaugh meets with the somewhat goofy Minister Cai (Larry Lei Zhang), who seems interested, but Vice Minister Xi Yan (Jennifer Lim) is far more dubious of hiring Ohio Signage. But soon the tables are turned, and Daniel finds himself joining forces with Xi — in more ways than one — as secrets are revealed about all four major characters and relationships are severely tested. Written by David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly) and directed by Leigh Silverman (Well), Chinglish is a sweet romantic comedy about communication, in both the boardroom and the bedroom. Setting China’s economic boom against America’s continuing collapse, Hwang and Silverman focus on how language and meaning can bring people together or tear them apart. The play is filled with jokes about Chinese signs and bad translations, but at its heart it’s about honesty and being “a good man,” as Xi says to Daniel. David Korins’s scenic design keeps things moving wonderfully, as rotating sets circle in and out of one another, offering cute vignettes that make clever use of every moment. Chinglish, produced by the team behind August: Osage County, is more chef’s special than combination plate, a timely and funny look at how people communicate in the modern age.

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