By Dalia Wolfson12th Grade, Hunter College High School Chinglish follows American businessman Daniel Cavanaugh as he sets out to make a sales pitch to the local cultural ministry in a small Chinese province. Cavanaugh meets resistance from the cultural minister, but his shrewd vice-secretary Xi Yan offers her assistance. Cavanaugh and Yan become both business and romantic partners, plotting their way through the Chinese bureaucracy, where relationships matter far more than legal dealings. Chinglish is a play that goes to the root of the conflict between East and West. Throughout the play, there’s a clear doublespeak situation: the show has both literal subtitles (translations screened above the stage) and simmering subtext. Different values emerge, as Xi Yan appreciates Cavanaugh because he is honest, with a “good face;” Cavanaugh likes Yan for her self-control and cunning. Family dynamics also enter onstage: Cavanaugh, the hopeless romantic, commits adultery and is ready to move to China for his mistress, while Yan insists that she must remain “a good wife.” To Cavanaugh, Yan is his love; to Yan, this American is an “escape.” Chinglish is a feast of mistranslation and misleading promises. The exciting set — revolving doors, lavish hotel rooms, posh offices and downstairs cafés — is a playground for scenes that tackle the encounter between two cultures and countries. A piece of advice from Mr. Cavanaugh: “When doing business in China, always bring your own translator.” And maybe the underlying message is: become the translator, because otherwise, you’ll always be a little lost.
Read Dalia's thoughts on language in theatre here!
TICKETS: $31.50 student rush • Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St. website