The play is about the owner of a Cleveland sign company who shows up in a city in SW China to try and get a contract for signs in a new cultural center about to be built. Much of the humor of the play involves "Chinglish," i.e. mangled translations. For example, the businessman introduces himself as the head of a "small family-run business," which gets translated into Chinese for the Minister of Trade. As he sits listening to the interpreter, we see in the supratitles what she actually translates that to: "His company is small and insignificant."
But the play is not just about funny translations, it's also about the virtual impossibility of translating centuries of meanings buried inside our language, or of truly understanding another culture. Even when the words were correctly translated, meanings were lost. The play also had a carefully constructed plot with breathtaking twists and turns that were not only unanticipated and therefore fun, but also often remarkably insightful as Hwang played with the cultural assumptions of both his Chinese, American and Aussie characters.
The day after the play opened and received rave reviews from both Chicago and national drama critics, the producers announced that the play will move to Broadway this fall. It's still too early to know whether or in what capactity Brian might continue to work on the play, but we're keeping our fingers crossed.
On our last day in Chicago, and after Becky was already back in Austin TX, we were joined by the other understudies for -- what else -- a Chinese dinner at a small place near the theater. It was so good that Cedro started us doing a wave, although we're sorry to say that Norm was a little slow on the concept.