CATS presents “Chinglish” on April 7-30 in Nevada City

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE MIX CHINESE AND ENGLISH? You get Chinglish. Translating from Chinese to English often results in confusion and unintentional humor. For example, public signs that are supposed to advise English speakers to “be careful not to slip and fall” wind up reading “slip carefully” because of mistranslation.

English travelers to China often go “Chinglish hunting.” The phenomena also inspired Tony award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang to write a play called “Chinglish,” exploring the language and cultural gaps between Chinese and Americans.

Hwang’s play premiered on Broadway in 2011, and Time magazine called it the best new American play. “What’s impressive is how shrewdly Hwang makes a common cultural joke—the wacky mistranslations of American slang into Chinese—the entry point for a serious and nuanced study of the Chinese-American cultural divide,” the magazine wrote.

Now the play is coming to the foothills, thanks to Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra. From April 7-30, CATS presents “Chinglish” at the Nevada Theatre in Nevada City. “Chinglish” is directed by Annie Lareau.

The comedy is about a Midwestern businessman, Daniel Cavanaugh, who is looking to score a lucrative contract for his family’s sign-making business. He travels to China only to learn how much he doesn’t understand. His translators are unreliable, his consultant may be a fraud, and he is captivated by Xi Yan (pronounced “she”), a local cultural vice-minister.

“Chinglish” is CATS fourth show by David Henry Hwang, arguably the nation’s most prominent Asian-American playwright. CATS produced his “Flower Drum Song” revival in 2009, “Golden Child” in 2008 and “Tibet Through the Red Box” in 2005.

(Photo by Lia Chang)

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