Chinglish – Lost in Translation

CHINGLISH

“Chinglish” is a play by Tony Award winning David Henry Hwang. The drama tells the story of an American entrepreneur trying to start a business and China while trying to leap the many hurdles set up by the country’s dual communist and capitalist political system. After the comedy opened on Broadway in 2011 to critical acclaim, the next logical step was for Mr. Hwang was to get the play produced in mainland China. This was when things began to get a little complicated.

Before “Chinglish” could make its move, another completely unrelated incident took place involving  Bo Xilai, a former high-ranking Chinese politician and his wife Gu Kailai. Mrs. Kailai was accused and found guilty of murdering  Neil Heywood, a British businessman. This may seem completely insignificant to Mr. Hwang’s play- except for the unfortunate fact that the aspects of this totally ficitonal work, where the protagonist befriends a Chinese couple with close ties to the Chinese political system and fears they are plotting against him behind his back, uncomfortably mirror real events.

Luckily, Mr. Hwang is used to  rejection from the Chinese. “M. Butterfly”, his 1988 Tony Award winning play, is banned in China to this day.

Even though Mr. Hwang’s play was written before the events took place, the Chinese producers for the play backed out, stating that the timing wasn’t good and they did not believe that the play would be approved by the Chinese government. However, this has not stopped Mr. Hwang from having the play produced anywhere in Asia. “Chinglish” opened at the Hong Kong Arts Festival in early March.

Although many of his stage plays involve Chinese characters or themes, “Chinglish” would have been Mr. Hwang’s first play produced in China .  Luckily, Mr. Hwang is used to  rejection from the Chinese. “M. Butterfly”, his 1988 Tony Award winning play, is banned in China to this day.

By Tyler M Reid

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