The title is the slang term for unintentionally hilarious translations that appear on Chinese signage, meant to help the recent onslaught of English-speaking tourists. Verbally thrilling playwright David Henry Hwang uses these misadventures in translation as a springboard into a fascinating tale of colliding cultures in a new world where America is more involved with China than ever but no longer dominant. Cleveland sign maker Daniel (Alex Moggridge) travels to a midsize city in southwest China, where he proposes to solve the culturally embarrassing practice of Chinglish signs. Hwang slyly captures the cliche about Asian inscrutability with remarkably biting humor as well as sharp ethical questioning of capitalism, international distrust and the meaning of marriage. Daniel, who touts his own honesty, is surrounded by dissemblers, including a Mandarin-speaking Australian (in a wondrously bizarre performance by Brian Nishii) who promises to help him through the maze of Chinese bureaucracy, here in the form of old-school cultural minister Cai (Raymond Ma) and his ambition deputy, Xi Yang (Michelle Krusiec). Sex, corporate intrigue and political conspiracy swirl through director Leigh Silverman's fast-paced, brilliantly acted production. That swirl is matched by David Korins' perfectly crafted sets, which move in fascinating patterns through the nimble use of two turntables. Brian MacDevitt's lighting and Darron L. West's sound add to this outstanding production. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 p.m.; through Feb. 24. (714) 708-5555, scr.org.
Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m. Starts: Jan. 25. Continues through Feb. 24, 2013