Good Book Review About Chinglish: The Review
The 2011 play, Chinglish, acquires most of its witty humor, and sly drama from the confusion that ascends for a naïve, simple Cleveland sign company owner who fails to do either. Daniel Cavanaugh is the central character in this plays who portrays an unprepared America businessman who travels to provincial Chinese capital of Guiyang for almost eight weeks to try to get a business deal for his struggling family owned business of sign making, his motive is to put forth a proposition to replace several local signs that are written in incorrect English with grammatically correct or idiomatic versions.
His intentions are for the new international cultural center to apply new policy that will help progress internal development. When he finds himself in China, he does not speak any Chinese, what continues in the play is the story of an American businessman in China at a lingual disadvantage and his humorous and rather comical challenges along the way. In Daniels pitch meeting there is an amusing verbal dissonance when Chinese translators are constantly misinterpreting English; Peters corrected Mandarin and satirical remarks of Daniels impending love interest, Xi Yan.
Naturally, the Chinese are quite skeptical at first as Daniel finds himself involuntarily being mentored by the very and initially hostile Cai who is the local cultural minister and Xi Yang, who is the vice minister of culture. The first is scene is a hilarious depiction of the theme of the show where Daniel is having a one on one conversation with his mentor Xi Yan where his ignorance and her and her weak control over the English language creates disastrous misunderstandings between the two.
Throughout the play we first see how Xi Yang begins as a tough minded bull headed woman who eventually finds escape if not pleasure in their unavoidable trysts. The two hour play also consists of rather amusing exchanges between Daniel and Peter Timms who acts as Daniels consultant and is a British expatriate who is luckily fluent in Chinese and is promptly hired. Peter Timms becomes a guide for Daniel to help him with his business dealings with the Chinese and the people he wants to do business with such as Minister Cai Guoliang and Xi Yan. The play begins at the end of the story, where we see Daniel presenting a slideshow consisting of humorous photos of Chinglish (Chinese English) signs and his experiences.
The Chinese cast manages to stay clear of the obvious Asian stereotypes and the Americans stay clear from their typical clichés, instead, they portray an actual depiction of what really happens when a foreigner arrives in China and seeks to do business with all the language barriers and cultural differences. For all those people who have found themselves in a situation where it becomes difficult to even communicate can very well relate their frustration to the central character, Daniel, in the play.
The very foreseeable lost in translations communication exchanges keep the play going and the light humor present throughout, but this play has its share of several moving moments as well. It takes a more serious tone when Daniel finds himself hopelessly fallen in love with this Chinese woman while barely being able to communicate with her and meanwhile also dealing with his own feelings regarding his marriage. There are several humorous conversations that take place between them, one of them being a particular favorite where Daniel constantly tries to learn the phrase “I love you” in Chinese to confess to Xi Yan who breaks down in small giggles as Daniel wrecks the phrase over and over again.
Though their central relationship may not be entirely convincing, it manages to convey rather interesting and compelling ideas that one begins to appreciate the folds of contradiction put forward through two such characters who can barely communicate verbally yet they somehow manage to make both professional and personal progress in the play.
In the microcosm of one business deal, Chinglish also implies how Chinas evolution from communism to a capitalism and Americas uncontrollable need to understand and exploit the evolution has an effect on people both sides of the Pacific. It seems love over this cultural gap is equally tricky and enticing. Chinglish goes beyond the comedy of miscommunication, thanks to the several conflicting agendas we are surprised with. We come to learn that no character is what they seem, not the very likable Daniel or his Chinese counterparts, they all have an air of duplicitous yet they are also sympathetic. Chinglish requires the actors to be bilingual and have a humorous verve as we can see with Daniel being charming but stricken with anxiety as well, Nelson manages to delivery his language facility quite efficiently. Xi gives a memorable performance as she transitions from a very abrupt and tough woman who engages in manipulative dealings to a sensuous, enraptured woman who is torn between her adulterous relationship and a bureaucrat who is a political wife.
Chinglish takes a dark comical view of a concept that holds rather grave implications; accurate translation between Chinese and English is quite difficult. Almost every word in both languages carries a different meaning and holds no straight equivalent to its counterpart. The element of linguistic such as context and grammar tends to doom any social, cultural and historical Chinese-English communication. The characters, dialogue and ideas are brilliantly woven as such that even when bilingual translators are present, interpretations are constantly miscommunicated due to misconceptions and errors which results in a cacophonic mixture of both the languages. This play unlike the characters has little weaknesses and is an adept example of how failed communication can capture the complications of individual relationships.
Chinglish seems to take in the very obvious cultural differences in both the lands and incorporates it in an entertaining visual. Any businessman seeking to do business in China could probably learn a thing or two according to the concepts prevailing such as, the differences in social structure, how everything in China is more formal and hierarchal whereas in America, everything is more informal and loose. The way people deal with confrontation and conflict is also different as people in China prefer to be treated with respect and honor rather than with brutal honesty, whereas in America people believe in being more upfront and direct with their issues when it comes to dealing with other people.
Several other cultural differences include how the Chinese look more at a group collective rather than individualism, a Chinese counterpart may consider how his or her actions may affect others rather than just one self where is Americans believe more in individualism.
Business in China especially requires a more personal touch when it comes to making a comparison to the Westerners. When dealing with business in China, it becomes a secondary aspect as the two parties first spend time with each other in order to know each other better and build a foundation upon which to work. Whereas American business dealings depict a complete contrast as they are rather aloof and will sacrifice social gatherings and relationship building in order to the business done.
All of these aspects have been very been somewhat cleverly woven into the center of the play and become apparent when the main character has a challenging time trying to adjust to the way business is done in China and when he has to deal with the way things are done over there rather than the businesslike approach of America that he is accustomed to.
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