David Henry Hwang's "M. Butterfly" hasn't been professionally revived in L.A. since the touring version stopped at the Wilshire Theatre in 1991, and according to the playwright, it has never been professionally staged by an Asian American theater company.
East West Players plans to change that by staging Hwang's play about a French diplomat whose Chinese mistress turns out to be a man from June 9 to July 4 next year.
Hwang didn't intentionally withhold the L.A. revival rights all these years, he says, but neither did he say yes immediately to the East West proposal -- even though the company was instrumental in his development as a playwright.
He wasn't sure that it was time "for a high-visibility revival," he says, or that "there is something interesting and new to be said." However, director Chay Yew's ideas impressed Hwang enough for him to approve the project.
Yew told The Times, "I find the sexual and racial politics of the play still as poignant today as they were in the late '80s, especially the notion of colonization and cultural naivete, given the recent world events perpetuated by questionable American foreign policies."
Yew cited British painter Lucian Freud as an inspiration for the theatrical world he hopes to create. He said he envisions approaching the character of the diplomat "by route of Blanche Dubois, Anna Leonowens [the 'I' of 'The King and I'], Alice in Wonderland and George W. Bush."
The play will be staged in a venue named after Hwang (his parents are major donors to the company), but the writer said that wasn't a factor in his decision. "The fact there is a David Henry Hwang Theater is flattering on the one hand and a little over the top on the other," he said.
-- Don Shirley