Tony Award-winning and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly) is clad in a cozy salt and pepper turtleneck and black jeans when I meet up with him backstage at the Longacre Theatre after the Saturday matinee of CHINGLISH, his sexy, stylish and hilarious new play, currently in previews and set to open on October 27th.
The show comes to Broadway following its critically acclaimed world premiere production at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago this summer, which ran from June 18th through July 31st.
My backstage pass included photographing the cast in their dressing rooms, courtesy of cultural advisors Joanna C. Lee and Ken Smith.
Jennifer Lim, Angela Lin, Christine Lin, Stephen Pucci, Johnny Wu and Larry Lei Zhang who appeared in the production at the Goodman, are joined by Gary Wilmes, star of the recent acclaimed Gatz. OBIE Award winner Leigh Silverman, who directed Lisa Kron’s Well on Broadway and won a 2011 OBIE for directing both Go Back To Where You Are and In The Wake, directs the Broadway production.
Hwang’s new comedy CHINGLISHis about the challenges of doing business in a culture whose language—and ways of communicating—are worlds apart from our own. An American businessman arrives in a bustling Chinese province looking to score a lucrative contact for his family’s sign-making firm. He soon finds that the complexities of such a venture far outstrip the expected differences in language, customs and manners – and calls into questions even the most basic assumptions of human conduct.
“The U.S. and China are at a critical moment in history—each nation is deeply interested in, but knows very little about, the other,” said playwright David Henry Hwang. “CHINGLISHwas born from the many visits I’ve made to China over the past five or six years to witness the exciting changes there. During one visit, I toured a new arts center where everything was first-rate—except for the ridiculously translated English signs. It was at that moment that I thought of writing this play.”
The design team includes: Set Designer David Korins (Lombardi, Passing Strange), Costume Designer Anita Yavich (Anna in the Tropics) and Lighting Designer Brian MacDevitt (The Book of Mormon, Fences, Goodman: Long Day’s Journey into Night), Sound Designer Darron L. West (Time Stands Still), and Jeff Sugg (33 Variations) and Shawn Duan (Impressionism) as Co-Projection Designers.
The Broadway production is produced by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Jay & Cindy Gutterman/Cathy Chernoff, Heni Koenigsberg/Lily Fan, Dasha Epstein, Ronald Frankel, Barry & Carole Kaye, Hunter Arnold, Filerman Bensinger, Ken Davenport, Van Dean, Joe & Matt Deitch, Herbert Goldsmith, Jam Theatricals, Mary Lu Roffe, Olympus Theatricals, Playful Productions, David & Barbara Stoller.
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Tickets are available for purchase on Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200.
GARY WILMES (Daniel Cavanaugh) Theatre roots began in Chicago where he worked with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. His first play was Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor for Fox Theatricals. Most recently, he played Tom Buchanan in ERS’s production of GATZ to acclaimed critical reviews at The Public Theater. The production received a 2011 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Alternative Theatrical Experience, and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and a Drama League Award. In the summer of 2010, Gary co-starred in the Steppenwolf’s Tony Award winning play, August: Osage County at the Sydney Theatre Company in Australia along with the original Broadway cast. In 2006, Gary won the Obie Award for his performance in Red Light Winter, a three character Adam Rapp play produced by Scott Rudin. His film credits include: Michael Winterbottom’s, A Mighty Heart with Angelie Jolie, Salt, with Jolie, I Hate Valentines Day, opposite Nia Vardalos, Birds of America, opposite Hilary Swank and will soon be seen in Sam Neave’s Almost in Love opposite Alan Cumming. On television, Gary just completed 10 episodes of “Jon Benjamin Has A Van” for Comedy Central and was a regular on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” He has guest starred on “Private Practice,” “Mercy,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Delocated,” “Numb3rs,” “Law & Order: CI.,” and soon “Blue Bloods.”
JENNIFER LIM (Xi Yan) starred in the premiere of Chinglish at Goodman Theatre. Jennifer was born and grew up in Hong Kong but now resides, works and dreams out of NYC. After graduating with a BA in Drama from Bristol University in the U.K., she attended the Yale School of Drama for her MFA in Acting. Her New York credits include the world premiere of Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven (by Obie Award winner Young Jean Lee) at HERE Arts Center, Ching Chong Chinaman at Pan Asian Rep, Vengeance Can Wait at P.S.122 and YokastaS Redux (directed by Richard Schechner) at La MaMa, E.T.C. Regionally, she has appeared in Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella and Iphigenia at Aulis at Yale Rep and A Christmas Carol at Actors Theatre of Louisville. International theater credits include This Isn’t Romance at Soho Theatre in London; the European tour of Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven; The Medea at Adana State Theatre Festival, Turkey and Hamlet at Shanghai Experimental Theatre Festival and Grotowski International Theatre Festival, Wroclaw, Poland. Her film credits include The Savages, 27 Dresses and The Boy Who Cried Bitch: The Adolescent Years, and on television she has appeared in “The Good Wife,” “Blue Bloods,” “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Law & Order: CI,” “Royal Pains” and “Dirty Sexy Money.” Jennifer is also a member of Gia Forakis & Co. www.jenniferlimonline.com.
ANGELA LIN (Miss Qian/Prosecutor Li) Lin has appeared on Broadway in Coram Boy (Drama League Award for Best Ensemble) and Top Girls. Off Broadway, she appeared in Jordan Harrison’s Futura with the Obie Award-winning National Asian American Theatre Company, Ching Chong Chinaman at Pan Asian Repertory Theatre and Sake With the Haiku Geisha at Gotham Stage Company. Regionally, she appeared in the East Coast premiere of Donald Margulies’ Shipwrecked at Long Wharf Theatre, the world premiere of Lloyd Suh’s American Hwangap at Magic Theatre and Twelfth Night at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Ms. Lin’s film credits include Falling Awake, Miracle Dogs, Green Plastic Sandals and Within the Ivory Tower, and on television she has appeared in “The Good Wife” (CBS), “One Life to Live” (ABC), “The Jury” (FOX) and “As the World Turns” (CBS). Ms. Lin is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University. www.angelalin.com
CHRISTINE LIN (Zhao) Goodman: understudied the role of Bea in Ghostwritten. Her recent Chicago credits include Soul Samurai at InFusion Theatre, Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (a rave fable) at Halcyon Theatre, Bubble Tea Party! with Stir-Friday Night! and Days of Late with SiNNERMAN Ensemble. Ms. Lin is a company member of Halcyon Theatre and an ensemble member of Asian American sketch comedy group Stir-Friday Night! She studied at Steppenwolf Classes West’s ensemble intensive program and holds a BS degree in electrical and biomedical engineering from Duke University www.christine2lin.com.
STEPHEN PUCCI (Peter Timms) His credits in the United Kingdom and Europe include Manor at the Tristan Bates Theatre/ Soho Studio Theatre, the British Animation Awards-nominated Glover at the National Film Theatre, Absent at the Royal Opera House, Your Nation Loves You at the Lyric Hammersmith Studio Theatre and A Midsummer Night’s Dreamat the Cochrane Theatre and at the Festival Shakespeare du Quercy. Mr. Pucci has trained at The Central School of Speech and Drama in London and with international theater companies and schools from across the world, including Complicite, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia. He studied at the University of Leeds in England and at Tianjin Normal University in China and holds a BA in modern Chinese studies (Mandarin Chinese).
JOHNNY WU (Bing/Judge Xu Geming) last appeared in Naomi Iizuka’s Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West at Berkeley Repertory Theatre with Les Waters directing. He was also seen in Peter and the Starcatchers at La Jolla Playhouse, directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers. Mr. Wu recently earned his MFA in acting from the University of California, San Diego, where he appeared as Guildenstern in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Jason in Medea and B1/B2/ Michael in A Number. Film credits include Limitless with Bradley Cooper, Certainty and Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and on television he has appeared in “24” (FOX) and “Cold Case” (CBS).
LARRY LEI ZHANG (Minister Cai Guoliang) Mr. Zhang’s regional credits include Don Juan Meets XiMenQing at the San Francisco Chinese Culture Center, Blue & Black at the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts and Long Day’s Journey into Night at Tao House in Danville, California. Internationally, he has appeared in Yin and Yang at Shanghai Lyceum Theatre, Mei Lan Fang at Shanghai Majestic Theatre, and Mourning and Emperor Romulus at Shanghai Theatre Academy. He has appeared on screen in Eyes of Birch, Still, Golden Sand River and Over this Land, and on television in “Made in China,” “Legend of Bruce Lee,” “Tribe of Knowledge Youth” and “Ms. P.R.” He is a graduate of Shanghai Theatre Academy.
DAVID HENRY HWANG (Playwright) Hwang’s plays include M. Butterfly (1988 Tony Award, 1989 Pulitzer Prize Finalist), Golden Child (1998 Tony Award nomination, 1997 OBIE Award), Yellow Face (2008 OBIE Award, 2008 Pulitzer Prize Finalist), FOB (1981 OBIE Award), The Dance and the Railroad (1982 Drama Desk Award nomination), Family Devotions (1982 Drama Desk Award nomination) and Bondage. He wrote the libretti for the Broadway musicals Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida (co-author), Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song (revival, 2002 Tony Award nomination) and Disney’s Tarzan. In opera, his libretti include four works with composer Philip Glass: The Voyage (Metropolitan Opera), 1000 Airplanes on the Roof, Sound and Beauty (seen in Chicago at the Court Theatre), and Icarus at the Edge of Time; as well as Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar (two 2007 Grammy Awards), Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland (Opernwelt 2007 “World Premiere of the Year”) and Howard Shore’s The Fly. Hwang penned the feature films M. Butterfly, Golden Gate and Possession (co-author), and co-wrote the song “Solo” with Prince. He sits on the Council of the Dramatists Guild, and served by appointment of President Clinton on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
LEIGH SILVERMAN (Director) Previous Broadway: Lisa Kron’s Well. Recent world premieres: In The Wake (Center Theatre Group/Berkeley Repertory Theatre and The Public Theater; OBIE Award, Lortel Nomination); Go Back To Where You Are (Playwrights Horizons: OBIE Award); From Up Here (MTC; Drama Desk Nomination); Coraline (MCC/True Love); Beebo Brinker Chronicles (Hourglass Group/ 37 Arts); Creature (New Georges/P73); Hunting and Gathering (Primary Stages); Well (The Public Theater, The Huntington Theatre and ACT); The Retributionists (Playwrights Horizons); Blue Door (Playwrights Horizons and Seattle Repertory Theatre); Oedipus At Palm Springs (NYTW); Jump/Cut (Woolly Mammoth Theatre/Theater J and Women’s Project); also Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (Second Stage Theatre). West End: Wit (Vaudeville Theatre). This marks Leigh’s second premiere production of a work by David Henry Hwang having previously directed Yellow Faceat the Center Theater Group and The Public Theater.
Tickets are available for purchase on Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200. For more information, visit chinglishbroadway.com.
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