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'Chinglish': Not lost in translation

The flawed English-Chinese interpretations in "Chinglish" are hilarious.

The flawed English-Chinese interpretations in "Chinglish" are hilarious.

Watching an interpreter twist the Mandarin Chinese "my hands are tied" into "he is in bondage" or "I love you" into "frog loves to pee" is great fun. But David Henry Hwang's blisteringly funny satire, currently at the Lyric Stage, is anything but a one-note yuckfest.

At its core, "Chinglish" is an intelligent, irreverent commentary on the challenges of cross-cultural relationships. While bumbling through, both parties quickly learn that language is hardly the only barrier to living, loving and doing business on foreign soil. Though neither side has any problem getting into bed (both literally and figuratively) with someone for the sake of the deal, the cultural ramifications of doing so are remarkably dissimilar.

Director Larry Coen finds the balance between humor and cultural mores in a production that, according to one experienced audience member at our performance, is "exactly what it's like for an American doing business in China." Even obscure in-jokes about treating Mr. Bubble as a "luxury item" ring true in one of the Lyric's finest, funniest productions to date.

Barlow Adamson (Daniel Cavanaugh) and Celeste Oliva (Xi Yan) are spot-on in their performances as an American man and Chinese woman willing to do whatever it takes to get the deal done. Alexander Platt nicely explores a multitude of dimensions in Peter Timms, the English "consultant" also looking to reinvent himself in this newfound land of opportunity. But Chen Tang gets the biggest and most well-deserved laughs for his riotous turn as Bing.

If you learn nothing else from this uproarious, poignant farce, always remember to bring your own interpreter.

The plot

Daniel Cavanaugh — an American businessman seeking to explore the largely untapped Chinese market of those in need of accurate signage — enlists English consultant Peter Timms to help navigate his way. Though language is a most formidable barrier, it’s hardly the only obstacle they encounter trying to get their big breaks.

If you go


Through Dec. 23

Lyric Stage

140 Clarendon St., Boston

$25-$58, 617-585-5678


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