Asian Theatre Journal 1.1 (2002) 244-245
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This bilingual edition of The Bride and Her Double combines the Chinese script of the 1998 stage play Fuzhi xinniang by Chi-Mei Wang with an English translation by Wang and Jeannie M. Woods. As Wang recounts in her foreword and Woods in her afterword, the English translation was a collaborative process undertaken while Woods was a Fulbright scholar in Taiwan. Through frequent discussion and revision, Wang and Woods sought to create a performance-ready translation that might also serve as "a translation of Chinese and Taiwanese culture and society" (p. 332). This attractive, well-illustrated volume largely fulfills both of these difficult tasks. The English is engaging and varied, nearly all of it suitable for performance. Though one play can never represent an entire culture, The Bride and Her Double captures so many facets of contemporary Taiwanese society that a viewer or reader--the latter with the help of Wang and Woods's added notes--can gain a significant understanding of the social milieu surrounding this play.
The Bride and Her Double examines changes in women's marital choices over four generations. The twenty-something Pei-Pei is free to choose her own husband but unable, and unwilling, to decide between her two boyfriends. She is further daunted by the task of living up to her mother, a "superwoman" with both a brilliant career as a scientist and a satisfying marriage (p. 190). The low position of Taiwanese women in Japanese-occupied Taiwan denied Pei-Pei's grandmother her dream of medical school, but she did prevail in selecting her own husband. Pei-Pei's great-grandmother, forced into an arranged marriage and dying an early death, was less fortunate. Though her tragic restrictions contrast strongly with her great-granddaughter's freedom, The Bride and Her Double does not present a simple message of progressive opportunity. Pei-Pei's freedoms bring their own difficulties; moreover, her basic choice remains limited to one man, a notion challenged by her younger sister, who wishes to live in a threesome with two friends, one male and one female. Through this story of four generations of Taiwanese women, Wang captures snapshots of life in Taiwan past and present, setting much within the frame of a quintessentially Taiwanese institution: the bridal photo salon.
Translating Chinese dialogue into actable English is always a challenge. The Bride and Her Double complicates matters with characters from different generations, each with distinctive language. Wang and Woods have particular success with the oldest characters, whether the poetic great-grandmother or the lively grandmother, and with the youngest characters, the trendy teenage threesome. The parents, though less verbally intriguing than the jargon-heavy teens, also translate smoothly into English. The only weakness comes in Pei-Pei and her peers, who do not find a consistent English voice. At times they [End Page 244] sound a bit too formal for their age; these characters are also prone to repetitions that sound natural in Chinese but awkward in English. Even though certain elements cannot find full equivalency in English--Pei-Pei's fashionable peppering of English words, the Taiwanese utterances of her grandmother, or the beeper-coded language used by the three teens--reading the English version leaves no sense that it must sound better in the original.
Wang and Woods's translation feels complete unto itself. Many works of contemporary Taiwan theatre never even see print in Chinese. Chi-Mei Wang has been instrumental in filling this void--first by editing a 1993 series of key works from the Little Theatre Movement and now by publishing a series of her own recent plays. The Bride and Her Double is the lone bilingual edition in either series. For the nonnative reader of Chinese, the format is invaluable in allowing the reader to check the meaning of unfamiliar words or lines. For instructors teaching students with differing levels of Chinese...