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Signature Theatre Presents "Golden Child" by David Henry Hwang at Pershing Square Signature Center
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Signature Theatre Presents "Golden Child" by David Henry Hwang at Pershing Square Signature Center

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Signature Theatre Presents:
Golden Child
(Show Web Page)

By David Henry Hwang
Directed by Leigh Silverman

Signature Theatre
(Signature Theatre Website)
James Houghton, Founding Artistic Director
Erika Mallin, Exec. Director
The Pershing Square Signature Center
480 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
(212) 244-PLAY (7529)

Tina Chilip, Nadia Gan, Lesley Hu
Jennifer Lim, Matthew Maher, Annie Q
Julyana Soelistyo, Greg Watanabe

Scenic Design: Neil Patel
Costume Design: Anita Yavich
Lighting Design: Matt Frey
Sound Design: Darron L. West
Projection Design: Darrel Maloney
Hair & Wig Design: Tom Watson
Dialect Coach: Deborah Hecht
Fight Direction: J. David Brimmer
Casting: Telsey + Company/William Cantler CSA
Production Stage Manager: David H. Lurie
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Assoc. Artistic Director: Beth Whitaker
General Manager: Adam Bernstein
Director of Marketing: David Hatkoff
Director of Production: Paul Ziemer

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 30, 2012

David Henry Hwang’s late 1990’s play, Golden Child, introduces the audience to old world Chinese culture and mores, all within the sparkling, modern space, called The Pershing Square Signature Theatre, with live music, healthy ready-made snacks, a book store, and an expansive seating area. This is a comfortable and inviting theatrical space, far West 42nd Street. The stage at Pershing Square is also expansive, and excellent sight lines assist the overall enjoyment of a night at the theater. Back to Hwang’s play, and, by the way, Hwang is now the Residency One Playwright at Signature Theatre. Golden Child opens and closes with Annie Q. as a Chinese Grandmother, all scrunched up, speaking in slow, deliberate English, with her grandson, played by Greg Watanabe. The grandson begs to tape (setting here is 1968 Philippines) a family history interview, and so the action unfolds.

Without exiting the stage, the scene changes to 1918-1919 Fujian, China, and grandmother becomes granddaughter, Eng Ahn, while grandson becomes Ahn’s grandfather, husband to Ahn’s mother, Eng Siu-Yong, called First Wife (Julyana Soelistyo). The scrunched grandmother is actually a diminutive actress who scampers about on her newly bound feet. The eager grandson now rules the roost, and quite a roost it is. Also in the household are Second Wife, Eng Luan (Jennifer Lim), and Third Wife, Eng Eling (Lesley Hu). An entertaining scene finds the three wives at a table, bantering about their respective frustrations. The only child is Siu-Yong’s, with Second Wife and Third Wife each exponentially younger than the previous wife. Third Wife is more like a young concubine, Tieng-Bin’s youthful flower, while Second Wife seems the most unsettled, unsure of place or standing. Siu-Yong is the lead female character, as she has witty, biting monologues that were as thought-provoking as humorous. It was in these monologue moments that one admires Mr. Hwang the most, for his efficient, introspective phrases.

There are Servants, doubling as Ghosts, played by Tina Chilip and Nadia Gan, and a late character entry is Reverend Baines (Matthew Maher), whose dialogues with the husband, Tieng-Bin, bring themes of Christianity and modernity to the old-world Chinese customs and beliefs. One of the first customs to be banished by the transforming Tieng-Bin is that of binding women’s feet, and so Ahn is placed on a table to have her bindings removed by her resistant mother, in painful results for the child. The play’s title is the name Golden Child that Ahn was called by her caretaker’s husband, for a child who brings luck. As the action unfolds, each wife is given a new role by Tieng-Bin, although he’s not entirely pleased with the repercussions. Fate now rules the roost, and the re-structured family must somehow adapt.

Each actor shines in these nuanced roles, with First Wife, Siu-Yong having the most memorable lines that resemble Chinese proverbs. An ongoing laugh line involves Siu-Yong’s addiction to opium, and its ability to keep her sane. Leigh Silverman expertly directed this talented cast to grip the audience throughout this tale of exotic culture and evolving change. Neil Patel’s set drew me right in to the deep, dark wooden ambiance. Anita Yavich’s costumes were fanciful and refined. Matt Frey kept the lighting warm and understated. Kudos to David Henry Hwang. I look forward to his next new play.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at