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Theatre Review: Plenty Of Laughs In Culture Clash Comedy 'Chinglish'

  

Community Asian Theater of the Sierra, or CATS, is staging this raucous comedy in which mutual misunderstandings complicate a deal between a desperate American businessman and his affluent Chinese hosts. Funny? Yes. Timely? Definitely.

When a business proposal goes back and forth between English and Chinese, a lot can get lost in translation… especially when an inexperienced interpreter chooses inappropriate phrases. Try to decode these translated remarks, coming from a high Chinese official.

But the American businessman has plenty of translation issues as well. He’s just updated his online presence -- and there are problems.

Turns out the Chinese banner promises “Fast Free Delivery,” a phrase more appropriate for takeout food. Then the Chinese negotiator dials the Cleveland headquarters -- and the cell phone in the American’s pocket rings.

Credibility issues and hidden agendas emerge on both sides, and the cultural miscues pile up willy nilly. These absurd situations are staged for laughs. But this astute, fast-moving satire jabs at American and Chinese politics and presumptions as well. To make things even more realistic, 25 percent of this play’s dialog is spoken in Mandarin, translated into English supertitles for the American audience. And the Mandarin portion of the play generates the biggest laughs.

This impressive small production in Nevada City is a rare local opportunity to see this slick comedy, which you’d ordinarily find in a coastal metropolis. Kudos to CATS for bringing it here, and staging it remarkably well.

The Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra presents "Chinglish" through April 30 at the Nevada Theatre in Nevada City. 

0418JH-CHINGLISH-EMBED

Jeff Hudson

Contributing Arts Reporter and Theatre Critic

Jeff Hudson has been contributing arts-related stories to Capital Public Radio since 1995, with an emphasis on theater and classical music. He attends over 100 performances annually, ranging from modern musicals to medieval masses.   Read Full Bio