Cultures Clash as “Chinglish” Opens at Lyric Stage in Boston

Smart, irreverent and full of cultural nuances, David Henry Hwang’s Chinglish is a gem to be treasured. An unexpected part of its pleasures is the pure genius of the projected supertitles, since mistranslations are the key to the fun of this play. It is a bilingual Chinese-American farce, the first of its kind. With its first performances this weekend, it is destined for a great run at Lyric Stage in Boston.

The cast of Chinglish: Barlow Adamson, Tiffany Chen, Liz Eng, Celeste Oliva, Alexander Platt, Chen Tang, Michael Tow. Photo by Nerys Powell.

Tickets are being snapped up not only by regular theater-goers who are responding to positive word of mouth, but by the areas many business professionals whose travels these days include similar forays into foreign business deal making.

Named one of Time Magazine’s 10 best plays of 2011, Chinglish follows an American businessman as he heads to a bustling Chinese province looking to cash in on the area’s growth potential. He engages an English consultant to navigate the linguistic and cultural clash his venture unwittingly sparks, and gets much more than he negotiated for.  A hilarious comedy of mistranslation and manners by Tony and Obie Award-winning playwright, David Henry Hwang, author of M Butterfly.

The playwright talks about his creation:

“Hilarious…This well-made comedy takes a poignant view of the profound isolation and terrible vulnerability of people who are lost without their native language.”—Variety

“One of the funniest plays in memory…There’s sex, heartache, even a bit of song and dance…Chinglish manages the neat trick of being about issues, yet populated with real humans while consistently funny. I haven’t heard an audience laugh that much in years.”—Chicago Sun-Times

“Thrilling…Hwang has built a bilingual farce about mistranslation that explores the cultural differences between China and America using two languages, and then layered a love story on top of it to illustrate the divide…The result is a thoughtful, funny and poignant piece.”—Associated Press


Directed by Larry Coen


Scenic Design, Dahlia Al-Habieli
Costume Design, Emily Woods Hogue
Lighting Design, Matthew Whiton
Projection Design, Garrett Herzig
Sound Design, Arshan Gailus
Language Coach, Gail Wang



Barlow Adamson*           Daniel Cavanaugh
Alexander Platt*              
Peter Timms
Tiffany Chen                     
Miss Qian/Prosecutor Li
Michael Tow                     
Cai Guoliang
Celeste Oliva*                   
Xi Yan
Chen Tang*                       Bing/Judge Xu Geming
Liz Eng                                Zhao

*Member of Actors Equity Association (AEA)     ** United Scenic Artists (USA-Local 829)

WHEN:        November 30 – December 23

Wednesdays, Thursdays – 7:30pm
Wednesday matinees – 2pm, December 5 & 19
Fridays – 8pm
Saturdays – 3pm & 8pm
Sundays – 3pm

Post-show talkbacks:  Sundays, December 2&16 after 3pm performance
Press opening:   Sunday, December 2, 3pm
VIP opening:  Wednesday, Dcember 5, 7:30pm (post-show reception with cast and crew — open to all ticket holders)

WHERE:      The Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon Street, Copley Square, Boston, MA  02116

TICKETS:    $25 – $58.
Seniors – $5 off regular price.
Student rush – $10.
Group rates available.
Box Office:  617-585-5678


Barlow Adamson* (Daniel Cavanaugh) has appeared at The Lyric Stage in Time Stands Still, The Scene, Arms and the Man, Red Herring, Private Lives, andNoises Off. He has performed with many other local companies including SpeakEasy Stage (Reckless, Fuddy Meers, Theater District, Almost Maine), Gloucester Stage Company (The Norman Conquests, Dinner With Friends), Underground Railway (Yesterday Happened: Remembering H.M.), New Repertory Theatre (A Christmas Story), Nora Theatre Company (The Swan, On the Verge, Stop Kiss), Huntington Theatre (The Maiden’s Prayer, A Month In The Country), Súgán Theatre(The Lonesome West), Boston Theatre Works (Coyote On A Fence), and Worcester Foothills (Tuesdays With Morrie). He is an artistic associate of the Mill 6 Collaborative, co-directing their productions of Bunbury: A Serious Play for Trivial People, Shakespeare’s R+J, and The Monster Tales. This spring he will appear inOperation Epsilon at Central Square Theater and direct the premiere of From Denmark with Love for Vaquero Playground.

Tiffany Chen (Miss Qian/Prosecutor Li) is making her Lyric Stage debut. Recent performances include Car Talk: The Musical!!! (Central Square Theater), Anything Goes (Suffolk University), Miss SaigonLes MisérablesThe Sound of MusicWhen You Wish, and The Stephen Schwartz Project (Theater Under the Stars), andThoroughly Modern Millie (Texas Reperatory Theater). She has also performed in various galas and recitals. Aside from performance, she also enjoys her work at Blue Man Group. She would like to thank her friends and family for their support, especially Ryan, Judy and Matt, and Demps .

Liz Eng (Zhao) is making her Lyric Stage debut.  Boston area credits include Hookman (Company One, s.r.), Heartbreak Hill (SLAMBoston), The Vagina Monologues (UMass Boston), and R.A.W. (Actors Refugee Repertory Theater, Best Actress in an Ensemble Award).   Ms. Eng other recent work includes film, television, and a Google commercial; she is a member of SAG/AFTRA.  Ms. Eng received a B.A. in Psychology and Performing Arts from UMass,


Celeste Oliva* (Xi Yan) is making her Lyric Stage debut.  She has appeared in America’s longest-running play Shear Madness since 1997.  Her film work includesLifetime’s Sexting in Suburbia, The Company MenHatteras Hotel, The Invention of Lying21The Women, and Mystic River.  Television roles include Boston’s Finest(ABC), Brotherhood (Showtime), and  Killer Flood the Day the Dam Broke (PAX). On stage, Ms. Oliva has appeared in Playing for TimeThe Last YankeeSavage in Limbo, and Speed the Plow. She currently producing the independent film Super Bowl Sunday by local filmmaker Joe Garland andpresently raising funds on Indie GoGo.  She dedicates her performance to the memory of her sister, Sharnelle Smith.

Alexander Platt* (Peter Timms) is making his Lyric Stage debut.  Favorite productions include Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Trinity Rep/Perishable Theatre), Paul,Festen, Why Torture is Wrong… (Gamm Theatre).  Other stage work: Possible Worlds, King Stag (Elemental Theatre Collective), Don Carlos (Gamm Theatre), The Etymology of Bird (Providence Black Rep), The Mourners Bench, Love Alone, School for Scandal, The Skin of our Teeth, The Tempest, Comedy of Errors, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Trinity Rep), The Pathological Passion of the Christ (La MaMa Etc).  Alexander has a B.A. in Theatre from Albion College and an M.F.A. in Acting from Trinity Rep.  He is the Artistic Director of Elemental Theatre Collective, a Providence-based company dedicated to the development of new plays.

Chen Tang* (Bing/Judge Xu Geming) is making his Lyric Stage debut.  Recent on stage credits:  The King and I (Northern Stage), A Midsummer Night’s Dream(The Hive Theatre Co.), Hamlet (Genesis Rep), Two Rooms (Brown Box Theatre Co.), and After the Quake (Company One).  On screen:  Delocated (Adult Swim/Cartoon Network), 30 Rock (NBC), Wicked Attraction (Discovery), and numerous independent features and short films.  Chen will also be appearing in two independent feature films slated to release next year, Reunion 108 and Cocks of the Walk.  He graduated from Emerson College with a B.A. in Acting.  Many thanks and all my love to my family, as well as Stacey and her family for their undying support.

Michael Tow (Cai Guoliang) is a Certified Financial Planner by day and a SAG actor by night. Some of his favorite credits include  After the Quake (Company One) and The King and I (Curtain Call Theater). He has appeared in Showtime’s The Brotherhood and will be appearing in Universal’s R.I.P.D. due out in 2013. He would like thank his wife Nancy and their three girls, Alana, Mikayla and Sienna for their love and support and a special thanks to his Chinese tutor Lina for helping him prepare for the role.

Larry Coen (Director) directed The Understudy two seasons ago for The Lyric Stage.  He received the 2012 and 2010 Elliot Norton Awards for Best Director for directing The Divine Sister (SpeakEasy Stage) and Phantom of the Oprah (Gold Dust Orphans), respectively,  in addition to two previous Elliot Norton Awards for acting.  Additional directing credits: Ruthless! (SpeakEasy Stage); Twilight Zone and Willie Wanker and the Hershey Highway (co-directed with James Byrne) (Gold Dust Orphans);  world-premiere productions of Shel Shocked by the late Shel Silverstein (Market Theater); MLK: We Are the Dream (American Place Theater, NYC);Fax of Life (Manhattan Punchline).  As an actor he recently appeared in Nicholas Nickleby (The Lyric Stage).  As a playwright, 9 Circles of the Inferno was commissioned by ArtsEmerson and premiered in September, and Epic Proportions ran for ninety-three performances on Broadway in 1999 at the Helen Hayes Theatre directed by Jerry Zaks and starring Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Tudyk (also produced by The Lyric Stage in 2002).  Larry is Artistic Director of City Stage Co., which provides free arts education programs and performances for low-income kids and families.

Emily Woods Hogue (Costume Design) returns to The Lyric Stage after designing last seasons Or,.  Recent work includes To Kill A Mockingbird and Romeo and Juliet (New Repertory Theater’s Classic Repertory Company) and Trojan Women (Whistler in the Dark), with whom she is Associate Artistic Director and Resident Costume Designer. Upcoming ventures are Vinegar TomOur Country’s Good, and The Recruiting Officer (all with Whistler in the Dark) and Lungs (New Rep). Ms. Woods Hogue graduated from Bennington College with a degree in Costume Design and History.

Dahlia Al-Habieli (Set/Properties Design) Recent designs: Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and Love Person (Company One), Epic Proportions (Winnipesaukee Playhouse), A Christmas Story (New Rep), Or, (Lyric Stage). Other venues include: Central Square Theatre, Publick Theatre of Boston (2009 IRNE Winner forHumble Boy), Boston Children’s Theatre, Watertown Childrens’ Theatre, New Rep on Tour, Wellesley Summer Theatre, Factory Theatre, Another Country Productions. Dahlia is the Associate Production Manager for the Lyric, as well as Resident Properties Designer. She has previously served as the Assistant Production Manager at Wellesley College, and as Assistant Production Coordinator for the Tony Award-winning Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She returns to the O’Neill each spring as the Young Playwrights Design Mentor, working with middle and high-school playwrights in collaboration with professional actors and directors. Dahlia holds a BA from Wellesley College, and is a graduate of the O’Neill National Theater Institute.

Matt Whiton (Lighting Design) Galileo (UMass Lowell), Taking Sides (Yellow Taxi Productions) Tartuffe (University of Georgia) Contemporary Dance EnsembleA New Brain (Plymouth State University).  Also a regular Scenic Designer at the Lyric Stage, Matt designed Superior Donuts25th Annual Putnam County Spelling BeeShipwreckedYear of Magical Thinking, and will be designing the upcoming production of Stones in his Pockets.  Matt received is MFA from the University of Georgia in 2007.

Garrett Herzig (Projection Design) is designing at The Lyric Stage for the first time.  Most recently designed Sugar for ArtsEmerson.  Upcoming projects: M with the Huntington Theatre Company.  He works as Assistant Lighting Supervisor for the Office of the Arts at Emerson College and teaches the Master Electrician class as well as advising students on projections in their productions.

Arshan Gailus (Sound Design) returns to The Lyric Stage after designing for six previous productions including Avenue QSuperior Donuts, and The Understudy. Other area credits include composition and sound design for The Divine Sister (SpeakEasy Stage), Macbeth, and Twelfth Night (Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Norton Award for Outstanding Design) , and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, 1001, GRIMMThe OverwhelmingAfter the Quake, and Voyeurs de Venus (Company One). He has served as house sound engineer and sound supervisor for the Huntington Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion and is active in the Boston independent video game community as a composer and sound designer. He holds a B.S. in Music from MIT.

Nerys Powell (Production Stage Manager) was the AEA assistant stage manager for this season’s Lyric Stage production of The Mikado and last season was the AEA assistant stage manager for Big River and the production stage manager for Time Stands Still, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Avenue Q.  Ms. Powell holds a B.A. in English Literature from the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.  She resides in Roxbury and is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.

Gail Wang (Language Coach) moved to the US from Hangzhou, China. Before she came to America, she taught English in Hangzhou Normal University. Since her immigration, Mrs. Wang’s work in the US primarily concentrates in English as Second Language teaching and Chinese language teaching, Chinese cultural programing, museum education, and exhibition development. Gail is currently working as a federal grant manager for Boston Public Schools’ Chinese Language Program.

3 thoughts on “Cultures Clash as “Chinglish” Opens at Lyric Stage in Boston

    • You seemed to like it well enough when you saw it in New York. “…a fun and lively play, with spirited performances by an enthusiastic and gifted cast, it does not reach beyond an amusing evening of theatre. For an escape from day to day cares and woes, however, this is a thoroughly satisfying comedy.” Giuliano Review Link

  1. I travel for business quite often. Full disclosure: I’m writing this from Logan Airport, as I wait for a flight to Netherlands. So, I can understand the interest by business people. In fact, I was the one who suggested the play to my wife.

    We saw it last night (Friday). Overall, very good. The best scene is the opening scene of Act II. Overall, however, the play is a bit uneven. Metaphorically, the viewer finds him/her-self on sort of an emotional roller coaster, as the play at moments seems to border on farce, and at other times seems to switch gears to a very serious tone.

    In spite of it not being perfect, it is well worth seeing. Spiro, the director of the Lyric Stage, has once again come through with an entertaining and thought-provoking play.

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