San Francisco Playhouse continues to elevate the Bay Area theatre scene with their latest production, Chinglish, from Tony Award Winner David Henry Hwang.
I actually saw Chinglish on Broadway and I remembered liking it but couldn’t recall what it was about. The memories and feelings all came rushing back when I saw the spectacular and inventive sets and scenic design from Andrea Bechert and team.
While not a duplicate of the Broadway sets, it’s funny that the creativity of the design makes the whole story and production, and my fondness of the show, come rushing back. Further, as soon as it started, I was reminded that this show — then and now — has the most amazing lighting, which can control the mood of every scene. Wen-Ling Liao’s lighting really stands out, especially in some of the bedroom scenes.
Chinglish is the story of a businessman from the US that travels to China to try to amp up his sales of signage. The show includes numerous examples of poor translations — in signs and conversations — and our lead character’s aim is to make the signs accurate all the while having to rely on poor or biased translators to get his point across to his potential Chinese client.
The cast is uniformly excellent with Michael Barrett Austin as the American and Matthew Bohrer as his European interpreter with his own agenda. Nicole Tung is also a standout as one of the Chinese leaders who has secrets of her own that she tries not to divulge and Sharon Shao is a riot as one of the bad interpreters who plays a few other roles as well. Great use of wigs and costumes on her!
Photos: Jessica Palopoli
Director Jeffrey Lo also deserves a lot of credit for this production. He must have seen the Broadway production as in many ways, he pays homage to that but also finds a way to bring his own touch of creativity to the staging and set-up. He is becoming a name associated with directing some of the Bay Area’s best productions at various theatre companies so we all should keep him on our radar.
Prior to Broadway, Chinglish played in the Midwest and also Berkeley. It plays in SF through June 10. Get tickets and more information at www.sfplayhouse.org.