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

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.

ANATOMY OF A BREAKOUT

Sameul L. Jackson will take part in special Drama Desk panel discussion on such recent Broadway breakouts as THE MOUNTAINTOP

Fordham Mainstage at Lincoln Center
Pope Auditorium
113 West 60th St. at Columbus Ave.
Sunday, November 13, $15-$20, 6:30
www.dramadesk.org

The Drama Desk and the Fordham University Theatre Program are teaming up November 13 to present a special panel discussion, “Anatomy of a Breakout,” that examines just what it takes for a play, as well as an individual performance, to break through and become a critical and/or popular success. Editor and critic Randy Gener and Drama Desk vice president Leslie (Hoban) Blake will moderate an illustrious panel that features book writer Douglas Carter Beane, composer/lyricist Lewis Flinn, choreographer/director Dan Knechtges, and actress Liz Mikel of Lysistrata Jones; playwright David Henry Hwang, director Leigh Silverman, and actress Jennifer Lim of Chinglish; Venus in Fur playwright David Ives; actor Samuel L. Jackson of The Mountaintop; and Stick Fly and The Mountaintop director Kenny Leon. Tickets are $15 for Drama Desk members (which includes us) and their guests and $20 for the general public with advanceRSVP. The discussion will take place in front of the backdrop being used for Matthew Maguire’s production of Pierre Beaumarchais’s The Marriage of Figaro for the Fordham University Theatre Company, which continues November 11 and 17-19.