百老汇剧《中式英语》

发布时间: 2012-12-07 09:34   来源:
关键词: 英语

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英语学习爱好者必看的电影,《中式英语》的演员阵容包括林真华(Jennifer Lim)、Gary Wilmes(加里·维尔梅斯)、林丹扉(Angela Lin)、林逸扬(Christine Lin)、Stephen Pucci(普士梵)、伍贤中(Johnny Wu)与张磊(Larry Lei Zhang);由外百老汇OBIE得奖导演Leigh Silverman (蕾·施尔弗曼)执导。土生土长的美国观众从这个戏里,听到了一些前所未闻的“英语”,常常乐不可支。《中式英语》讲了一个美国商人如何努力赢得一份中国订单的故事,编剧名叫大卫·亨利·黄,是个不会讲中文的美籍华人。他前些年到中国出差时,在公共场所时常发现一些奇奇怪怪的英语表达,不正宗不说,更弄出了歧义叫人误解。他当然并非这种语言现象的唯一发现者,可他灵机一动,据此写了个剧本。《中式英语》是一出描述中美语言隔阂而造成沟通障碍的喜剧,也是第一出大量使用中文对白的美国主流舞台剧。剧中有7名演员,除了饰演美国商人的沃特斯顿,以及饰演在中国经营顾问翻译公司的普齐,其余都有华人血统,包括饰演女官员的Jennifer、饰演文化部长的Larry Zhang、饰演部长翻译的林恭、饰演检察官的Angela Lin,以及饰演法官的Jonny Wu。《中式英语》在部分使用中文对白和以当代中国为背景方面开创了百老汇的先例。

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Chinglish: The Goodman Theatre at the Longacre Theatre

'Chinglish,' a new play about China, deftly tackles tricky cultural terrain.

You may have heard that large swaths of David Henry Hwang's new play "Chinglish" are spoken in Mandarin, with English surtitles. Don't let it intimidate you. The choice is essential to the success of this smart and uproarious comedy examining the difficulties in bridging Chinese and American culture. Staged with sharpness and subtlety by director Leigh Silverman on David Korins' wondrously whirling and interlocking set of hotel rooms, lobbies, restaurants, government offices, and the like, the show is both a crackling good time and a thoughtful, nuanced look at the challenges posed by the latest nation out to usurp American economic supremacy.

Corn-fed Ohio businessman Daniel Cavanaugh arrives in the small Chinese city of Guiyang (think Cleveland) with the intention of cornering the market on signage for his family-run firm by providing accurate translations to replace the unintentionally comic ones dotting the landscape. In short order he acquires a business consultant, Englishman Peter Timms, who has taught English in China for 19 years but is reinventing himself, and a lover, the married government functionary Xi Yan, who despite her initial suspicions decides that Cavanaugh is "honest" and a "good man." As the trio tries to negotiate the elaborate societal rituals necessary for an American to ingratiate himself into Chinese business, we begin to learn that no one, Chinese or American, is really what he or she seems. And through the intercultural romance, we see just how different (and possibly unbridgeable) the two societies' views of love and personal responsibility are.

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Silverman elicits fine performances all around, but it's two of the ladies who walk off with the play. Jennifer Lim is tough, tight, yet also vulnerable and touching as Xi Yan, fully illuminating the character's complexity while landing laugh after laugh with her superb comic timing. The riotously funny Angela Lin steals every moment she's on stage in two contrasting roles, a self-conscious interpreter whose skills aren't up to snuff and a gung-ho prosecutor who is nevertheless more impressed by malfeasance and notoriety than honest but unheralded industry.

As an Ohio native, I can tell you definitively that Gary Wilmes has the shambling Midwestern naiveté thing down cold as Cavanaugh. Wilmes' role is the hardest, as Cavanaugh, though rarely offstage, functions more or less as the play's straight man, but the actor still manages to find depth in this fish out of water and is quietly moving in Cavanaugh's sudden outburst of love for a woman he doesn't remotely understand. Stephen Pucci is a boisterously British Timms, successfully suggesting a variety of hidden agendas underneath the hail-fellow-well-met façade and particularly convincing when inconvenient emotions erupt to crack it. Larry Lei Zhang, as a self-interested government minister who never says what he means, makes much out of one of those pasted-on smiles that soon come to seem vaguely terrifying. In smaller roles, Christine Lin amuses as another not-so-hot interpreter, while Johnny Wu is properly contrasting as a stern judge and an inept but highly entitled translator in place due to nepotism.

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Anita Yavich's costumes, Brian MacDevitt's lighting, and Darron L. West's sound design combine with Korins' inspired set to emphasize the surface banality that has settled over this ancient and colorful land, reinforcing the play's theme of dangerous shoals hidden by bland exteriors. But I don't in any way want to make "Chinglish" sound like a chore. Yes, it's perceptive and intelligent and told with a perspective not usually seen in the commercial theater. But more than anything else, it's just very, very funny.



  


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