Cinnabon Monster Recaps: East West Players’ CHINGLISH
Since this is my first time writing anything for Kollaboration, allow me to introduce myself! Edward Hong is my name, the Cinnabon Monster is my nickname. I’m gonna start right off the bat that before I begin the recap of the most recent East West Players production Chinglish, I would say that this was perhaps not only one of the best EWP productions I’ve ever seen but also one of the best plays I’ve seen this year. From the directing, acting, and presentation, Chinglish managed to hit all the marks in a sharp fashion in such a way that I would highly recommend this to not just my Asian folks because they should support Asian theatre but to my non-Asian & Asian folks alike because it’s good theatre period. I say all this because when it comes to Asian American entertainment, I can be rather harsh and this play was able to satisfy all my critical demands and more.
So what IS Chinglish all about?
Written by David Henry Hwang (author of the Tony Award-winning M. Butterfly) & directed by Jeff Liu, Chinglish tells the story of “an American businessman who is desperately looking to score a lucrative contract for his family’s firm travels to China only to learn how much he doesn’t understand: his translators are unreliable, his consultant may be a fraud, and he is captivated by Xi, the beautiful, seemingly supportive government official who talks the talk – but what is she saying, anyway?” The cast is comprised of Kara Wang as Xi Yan, Matthew Jaeger as Daniel Cavanaugh, Jeff Locker as Peter Timms, Ben Wang as Cai Guolang, Leann Lei as Miss Qian and Prosecutor Li, Ewan Chung as Bing and Judge Xu Geming, and Joy Yao as Zhao.
If you’re fan of David Henry Hwang, fast witty comedy with a political bite, or just good Los Angeles theatre in general (those can be hard to find), I highly recommend you watch this play. For a play that heavily relies on subtitles, the set design was created in such an effective and stylish way so that non-Mandarin speaking audience members can also understand the mis-translations. It is perhaps one of the most effective and innovative means and I must give a lot of credit to the set designer Hana Sooyeon Kim with masterful stage management by Sylvia Trinh to put it all together.
For those who have concerns that this Asian themed play with a white guy as the main character rely on any stereotypes, fear not! The central concept of how the main character’s “foreign” western ideals are taken advantage of in Xi’s political game runs very strong with all performances revealing incredibly fleshed out characters. The actors were all terrific but my standout would be Jeff Locker who played a rather difficult role in portraying a character you want to root for but then you realize the complexities that create the confused man that he is. Not only that but he is also fluent in Mandarin and he utilizes that unique skill set to its fullest advantage as he banters back and forth with his Chinese costars. It’s also worthy of note that this was the first production ever done for Chinglish that was directed by a Chinese American so it definitely plays a factor in how the direction was done for this East West Players rendition.
Featured Photo: Xi Yan, Vice Minister of Culture, played by Kara Wang, explains a situation to American businessman Daniel Cavanaugh, played by Matthew Jaeger in East West Players production of David Henry Hwang’s Chinglish.
For more information on the theater or the production, visit www.eastwestplayers.org