The Tony Award-winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre kicks off its new season in August with the West Coast premiere of Chinglish. David Henry Hwang won three Obies and the Tony Award for Best Play with popular scripts like M. Butterfly and FOB. Now he's back with a canny comedy of cross-cultural errors. Two-time Obie-winner Leigh Silverman returns to the Roda Theatre to stage the play.
A co-production with South Coast Repertory, where it will play in 2013, Chinglish starts previews in Berkeley on August 24, opens August 29, and runs through October 7, 2012. The executive producers of the local run are Gail and Arne Wagner. For the eighth straight year, BART and Wells Fargo serve as the official sponsors of Berkeley Rep's season. The season producers are Marjorie Randolph, Jack and Betty Schafer, and the Strauch Kulhanjian Family.
"I'm always looking for smart comedies to share with our audience," says Tony Taccone, artistic director of Berkeley Rep. "David brokers the comic gap between what words mean and how they're translated. Before our eyes, a delightful farce subtly transforms into a timely and treacherous dissection of two cultures entwined in misunderstanding. I'm delighted to welcome David back to the Bay Area, and to bring Leigh – a terrifically talented director – back to our stage with a crackerjack cast and creative team."
"In a time when Americans both admire and fear the rising power of China, the journey of Chinglish has been so gratifying to me," Hwang comments. "First in Chicago, then on Broadway, I've seen non-Asian, Asian American, and Chinese audience members, sitting in a theatre, watching a comedy set in today's China – and laughing together. I'm so excited we're now bringing Chinglish to its natural home on the West Coast, which has long understood the often-hilarious mishaps that can occur when East and West meet. I hope Berkeley Rep's smart and sophisticated audiences enjoy learning to speak Chinglish."
In Chinglish, an American businessman heads to Asia to score a lucrative contract for his family's firm – but the deal isn't the only thing getting lost in translation as he collides with a Communist minister, a bumbling consultant, and a suspiciously sexy bureaucrat. "Hilarious," raves Variety. "This well-made comedy takes a poignant view of the profound isolation and terrible vulnerability of people who are lost without their native language." "I haven't heard an audience laugh that much in years," agrees the Chicago Sun-Times. "There's sex, heartache, even a bit of song and dance… Hwang takes a situation that worries most Americans – China's rise – and the impossibility of understanding each other, particularly in languages as different as Chinese and English, and builds a marvelous comedy."
David Henry Hwang's plays include Bondage, The Dance and the Railroad (1982 Drama Desk Award nomination), Family Devotions (1982 Drama Desk Award nomination), FOB (1981 Obie Award), Golden Child (1997 Obie Award, 1998 Tony Award nomination), M. Butterfly (1988 Tony Award, 1989 Pulitzer Prize finalist), and Yellow Face (2008 Obie Award, 2008 Pulitzer Prize finalist). He also wrote the libretti for three Broadway musicals: Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida (co-author), Disney's Tarzan, and Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (revival, 2002 Tony Award nomination). In opera, his libretti include four works with composer Philip Glass – 1000 Airplanes on the Roof, Icarus at The Edge of Time, Sound and Beauty, and The Voyage – as well as Howard Shore's The Fly, Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar (two 2007 Grammy Awards), and Unsuk Chin's Alice in Wonderland (Opernwelt 2007 World Premiere of the Year). Hwang penned the feature films Golden Gate, M. Butterfly, and Possession (co-author), and co-wrote the song "Solo" with Prince. He sits on the Council of the Dramatists Guild, and served on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities by appointment of President Clinton.