Comedy “Chinglish” portrays communication and misunderstanding

(KTSF by Susannah Lee)

“Chinglish” by Chinese playwright David Hwang tells how language and cultural differences affect the way people communicate and understand one other in a funny way.

American businessman: A steak house you remember? A place like my second home.

Chinese interpreter: (in Chinese) He said there is a steak house. Sometimes he lives there.

That was just one of the numerous hilarious exchanges between the characters in “Chinglish”.

The play is set in modern day China, where an American businessman tries to make a deal with a provincial government official. An issue lies behind the jokes and humor.

“Above the language we speak, how can we communicate? Are we really communicating, between persons, between cultures, and between countries? Can we overcome the boundary?” says Larry Zhang who plays the Chinese provincial official Minister Cai.

Cultural difference also makes British teacher “Peter” feel a loss of identity . He has lived in China for 19 years and knows the Chinese language, culture and history better than some locals. While he considers and calls himself Chinese, he is always regarded as a foreigner.

“He learned the Chinese language, the culture, he knows so many locals there, yet he can not become a Chinese. He is a foreigner. This is different in the United States where people call themselves Americans whether they have lived here for 2 or 10 years.” says Brian Nishii who plays “Peter”.

China has been changing culturally in terms of social and political context, in addition to the role she is playing on the world stage. For a genuine exchange and mutual understanding between China and the U.S., it takes much more than literal interpretations.

Director Leigh Silverman believes the message in “Chinglish” relates to everyone. “I think Chinglish is really about misunderstanding in a political sense, in an emotional sense, a business sense. It’s about the way we communicate as human beings, as a way that we are misunderstood, and want to be understood.

“Chinglish” will be playing in the Bay Area from August 29 through October 7. It then goes to Costa Mesa before showing in Hong Kong next March.

(Copyright 2012 KTSF. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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