Prolific, relevant, irreverent can all be words that describe the masterful playwright David Henry Hwang. Words are his playground and in 'Chinglish', having is world premier at the Goodman, Mr. Hwang may have just created one of the most relevant and thought provoking works of the last fifteen years.
'Chinglish' the mashing of English and Chinese, finds the main character trying to regain his family fortune by manufacturing signs for the city of Guiyang's new cultural center. Words have different meanings, especially in the Mardarin translation, and Daniel Cavanugh is both the friend and foil for what transpires. Subtle nuances in tone create a laugh till you hurt dramady that has social implication far beyond the walls of the Goodman.
That is the sheer genius of Mr. Hwang, whose prior triumphs M. Butterfly and Yellow Face show us the humanity in the inhumane with very flawed central characters. In Chinglish, the playwright using comedy as an entry for a chilling look at our cultural differences and how sometimes our pronounced ignorance of a culture can lead to its misunderstandings that have lasting ramifications.
The acting here is quite simply perfect. James Waterston and Jennifer Lim are magically transfixing. Veteran Hwang director, Leigh Silverman makes her Goodman debut with ‘Chinglish'. Ms. Silverman knows the nuances of her author and allows the actors to fully manifest this intended vision.
It was announced the day after the premier that this production will move to Broadway, and rightfully so. Look out 2012 Tony Awards, Goodman's ‘Chinglish' will just about steal the show.
‘Chinglish' plays through July 31, 2011 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 North Dearborn, (312)443-3800
Photo by Eric Y. Exit Attended by Gayle Schor/David Friend