Chinglish (play)

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This article is about the play. For the term itself, see Chinglish.
Original Broadway poster
Written by David Henry Hwang
Directed by Leigh Silverman
Date premiered June 18, 2011
Place premiered Goodman Theatre
Chicago, Illinois
Original language English, Mandarin
Genre Comedy
Official site

Chinglish is a play by Tony Award winner David Henry Hwang. It is a comedy about an American businessman desperate to launch a new enterprise in China, which opened on Broadway in 2011 with direction by Leigh Silverman.

Production history[edit]

Chinglish premiered at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, where it ran from June 18, 2011, until July 31, 2011.[1] This was Hwang's second collaboration with director Leigh Silverman, following Yellow Face at the Center Theater Group and The Public Theater.[2][3]

Few plays in recent years have delighted me as much as Chinglish. With a career spanning more than three decades and a canon that incorporates an array of genres, David is one of the luminaries of contemporary American theater. I have admired his work since long before our collaboration on the Broadway musical Aida, and it is a thrill to welcome him to the Goodman for the first time.

-Robert Falls, Goodman Theatre Artistic Director

The play premiered on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre on October 11, 2011 (previews), officially on October 27, 2011. Directed by Leigh Silverman, the cast featured Gary Wilmes, Jennifer Lim, Angela Lin, Christine Lin, Stephen Pucci, Johnny Wu and Larry Lei Zhang. The play was performed in English and Mandarin (with projected English supertitles).[4][5] The sets were by David Korins, costumes by Anita Yavich, lighting by Brian MacDevitt , sound by Darron L. West and projections by Jeff Sugg and Shawn Duan.


Chinglish on Broadway
Jennifer Lim and Gary Wilmes

An American businessman arrives in a bustling Chinese province looking to score a lucrative contract 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.[6]

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. Chinglish was 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 I thought of writing this play."

-David Henry Hwang, Playwright

Characters and Broadway cast[edit]

Source: Internet Broadway Database[7]

  • Daniel Cavanaugh (S: 丹尼尔.卡凡諾, T: 丹尼爾.卡凡諾, P: Dānní'ěr Kǎfánnuò[8]) - Gary Wilmes
  • Xi Yan (C: 席 言, P: Xí Yán[8]) - Jennifer Lim
  • Miss Qian (C: 钱小姐, T: 錢小姐, P: Qián-xiǎojie[8]) / Prosecutor Li (S: 李检察官, T: 李檢察官, P: Lǐ-jiǎncháguān[8]) - Angela Lin
  • Miss Zhao (S: 赵女士, T: 趙女士, P: Zhào-nǚshì[8]) - Christine Lin
  • Peter Timms (C: 彼得, P: Bǐdé[8]) - Stephen Pucci
  • Bing (冰) / Judge Xu Geming (S: 许革命法官, T: 許革命法官, P: Xǔ Gémìng-fǎguān[8]) - Johnny Wu
  • Minister Cai Guoliang (S: 蔡国亮局长, T: 蔡國亮局長, P: Cài Guóliàng-júzhǎng[8]) - Larry Lei Zhang

Notable productions[edit]

Berkeley Repertory Theater, South Coast Repertory and Hong Kong Arts Festival cast[edit]

  • Daniel Cavanaugh - Alex Moggridge
  • Xi Yan - Michelle Krusiec
  • Miss Qian / Prosecutor Li - Celeste Den
  • Miss Zhao - Vivian Chiu
  • Peter Timms - Brian Nishii
  • Bing / Judge Xu Geming - Austin Ku
  • Minister Cai Guoliang - Larry Lei Zhang (Berkeley) / Raymond Ma (South Coast Repertory)

Portland Center Stage, Syracuse stage cast[edit]

  • Daniel Cavanaugh - Peter O'Connor
  • Xi Yan - Tina Chilip
  • Hotel Manager/Prosecutor Li - Lily Tung Crystal
  • Peter Timms - Jeff Locker
  • Miss Qian / Miss Zhao - Rachel Lu
  • Bing / Judge Xu Geming - Yuekun Wu
  • Minister Cai Guoliang - Jian Xin

East West Players, Los Angeles Cast (September/October 2015)[edit]

  • Daniel Cavanaugh - Matthew Jaeger
  • Xi Yan - Kara Wang
  • Peter Timms - Jeff Locker
  • Minister Cai Guoliang - Ben Wang
  • Miss Qian / Prosecutor Li - Leann Lei
  • Bing / Judge Xu Geming - Ewan Chung
  • Miss Zhao - Joy Yao

Directed by Jeff Liu

Playwright David Henry Hwang

Critical reception[edit]

The production earned glowing praise from the Chicago Tribune, which wrote: "Four stars! In Hwang's hilarious Chinglish, the Chinese tiger roars, American business trembles. Laughs and sexual pleasure in translation. A shrewd, timely and razor sharp comedy! David Henry Hwang's best work since M. Butterfly.[9] The Chicago Sun-Times judged the piece "One of the funniest plays in memory. ... Chinglish has characters not clichés - the Chinese aren't worker bees, the American isn't an arrogant idiot.[10]

The New York staging was called: "Fresh, energetic and unlike anything else on Broadway. Chinglish is a thoughtful, funny and poignant piece in which, miraculously, nothing gets lost in translation."[11] Bloomberg termed it "A lethal comedy about business, sex and the failure to communicate that bristles with intelligence." [12] Time magazine ranked the play as its #3 choice among all theatre productions in 2011.[13]

Of the Los Angeles show, the Los Angeles Times dubbed Chinglish a Critic's Choice and said: "This production surpasses the South Coast Repertory-Berkeley Repertory production – itself no slouch...It’s taken a long time for this 2011 play to reach L.A., but thank goodness it got here in such excellent shape. (The Chinese-screen set, the costumes and lights are wonderful too, and East West [Players] has taken particular care with the Mandarin; each of its speakers was either born in China or immersed in the language.)." [14]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The Chicago production was nominated for five Joseph Jefferson Awards:[15]

  • Best Production - Chinglish
  • Director - Leigh Silverman
  • Actress in a Principal Role - Jennifer Lim
  • New Work - David Henry Hwang - (WON)
  • Scenic Design - David Korins - (WON)

The Broadway production was nominated for three Drama Desk Awards:

  • 2012 Outstanding Play
  • 2012 Outstanding Actress in a Play (Jennifer Lim)
  • 2012 Outstanding Set Design (David Korins)


  1. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Broadway-Bound 'Chinglish' Extends at Chicago's Goodman" Playbill, July 6, 2011
  2. ^ "World premiere of David Henry Hwang's Sexy New Comedy, CHINGLISH (June 18 - July 24), Completes Goodman Theatre's 'Decade on Dearborn' Celebratory Season.". Broadway's Best Shows. May 31, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-06. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Goodman Theatre Announces World Premiere of 'Chinglish'", accessed October 11, 2015
  4. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "West Meets East: David Henry Hwang's 'Chinglish' Opens on Broadway" Playbill, October 27, 2011
  5. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (June 28, 2011). "By Way of Chicago, David Henry Hwang Comedy ‘Chinglish’ Will Come to Broadway". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  6. ^ "Chinglish on Broadway". Broadway's Best Shows. September 19, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  7. ^ "'Chinglish' Broadway Production, Cast and Creatives", accessed October 10, 2015
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "41st Hong Kong Arts Festival Presents Chinglish." (Archive) Hong Kong Arts Festival. p. 11. Retrieved on May 17, 2013.
  9. ^ Jones, Chris (June 27, 2011). "In Hwang's hilarious 'Chinglish,' the Chinese tiger roars, American business trembles". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  10. ^ Steinberg, Neil (June 28, 2011). "Blagojevich tragedy not as alien as we might like". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  11. ^ Kennedy, Mark (October 27, 2011). "'Chinglish' jumps into Sino-American culture gap". Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  12. ^ "Chinese Call Shots in Business, Sex Comedy ‘Chinglish’: Review". Bloomberg. October 29, 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  13. ^ Zoglin, Richard. "The Best of 2011: Theater", Time magazine, December 19, 2011 issue, p. 77
  14. ^ Miller, Daryl (September 30, 2015). "Each person is a mystery in East West Players' lively 'Chinglish'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  15. ^ "Jeff 2011 Equity Awards Announced". Jeff Awards. August 31, 2011. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 

External links[edit]