BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
A witty study in modern-day miscommunication, “Chinglish” bowed on Thursday at the Longacre Theatre following its world premiere by the Goodman Theatre in Chicago last summer.
A funny yet rueful new comedy by David Henry Hwang, “Chinglish” spins around Daniel (Gary Wilmes), a nice Cleveland businessman striving to promote his sign-making firm’s products in China.
As Daniel explains to the audience during the play’s opening minutes, bi-lingual signage too often is mistranslated. A Chinese traffic warning regarding “Slippery Slopes Ahead” comes out in English as “To take notice of safe: the slippery are very crafty.”
Actually, Daniel skids down many a slippery slope himself while attempting to get a toehold in China. Not only does Daniel not know the language, he also is ignorant regarding Chinese ways of indirectly doing business.
When Daniel bids for work on a provincial cultural center, he discovers that Peter (Stephen Pucci), a Chinese-speaking Briton hired as his consultant, is not quite what he claims to be. Daniel also becomes romantically involved with Xi Yan (Jennifer Lim), a savvy cultural official who harbors her own agenda.
Then again, Daniel turns out to be not entirely aboveboard himself.
Sharply acted by a fine seven-member company directed by Leigh Silverman, the smartly-written play features a satiric streak that erupts into explosive laughter, especially during a wicked scene regarding a Chinese viewpoint on the Enron scandal.