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M. Butterfly. Paperback – January, 1998

4.3 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Perhaps the chief merit of M. Butterfly is that it preserves a performance of a play widely regarded as a contemporary classic with its original Broadway leads, John Lithgow and B.D. Wong. A Tony Award-winner for best play, David Henry Hwang's work looks at the life and loves of Rene Gallimard, who learns that his Chinese mistress of twenty years is actually a man and Communist spy. Both Lithgow and Wong have refined their work over hundreds of stage performances in these challenging roles. Hearing two such accomplished actors in parts they have mastered is a rare treat. These tapes offer a classic interpretation of an acclaimed play. On the strength of recordings like these, the L.A. Theatre Works is producing radio drama to rival the quality work of the BBC. --AudioFile --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From the Inside Flap

John Lithgow and B. D. Wong recreate their original roles from the Tony Award-winning production of M. Butterfly. Inspired by an actual espionage scandal, a French diplomat discovers the startling truth about his Chinese mistress.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance starring John Lithgow and B.D. Wong alongside Margaret Cho, David Dukes, Joanna Frank, Arye Gross and Kathryn Layng. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 72 pages
  • Publisher: Dramatists Play Service, Inc.; Acting Edition edition (January 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822207125
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822207122
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
M. Butterfly takes place in the mind of Rene Gallimard. While the play begins with him in a French prison, we are taken far away from this prison into the depths of his mind. His fantasies of Song Liling are both reality and illusionary. He will ultimately face the most shocking truth about the "woman" he thought he loved for twenty years. M. Butterfly takes a bold move in rearranging common roles set by our society, whether speaking for the present or from fifty years ago. This play dives deep into the pool of stereotypes and makes every turn imaginable. While the Eastern/Western dichotomy is presented with stereotypes of both sides, roles are soon reversed which gives the dichotomy a whole new meaning. Gallimard, initially portrayed as the Western dominant male, and Song, initially portrayed as the compliant Asian woman, will both eventually reverse their sexual roles although their enthnic identities remain in tact. Gallimard evolves from the controller to the controlled, while Song proves his power and control as his masculinity is revealed. All of this role and sexual confusion causes us to re-examine the stereotypes. Are they socially constructed or are they inherent in the person? You must read and decide for yourself!
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Format: Paperback
Reviewers who focus on the inplausibility of the play's premise are missing the forest for the trees. The ridiculousness of Gallimard's situation is the product of his (and through him, the West's) self-absorbed and limited view of the East, evidenced through the overly simplistic dichotomy of East & West. He has been utterly blinded by his preconceptions of gender, culture, and politics. Hwang has written a masterpiece with grace, humor, and wit. Students of literary analysis will find a text rich in archetypes and ritual.

Highly recommended.
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By A Customer on July 16, 2001
Format: Audio CD
This audiobook presentation of M Butterfly will give listeners a first class seat to hear one of literature's great stories. M butterfly is much more then a love story; rather it is a multi-themed tale which addresses many issues. West vs East, Fantasy vs reality sexuality, true love and the human condition. John Lithgow and B. D. Wong are great in the leading roles, especially Wong what a transformation! Buy this production and enjoy this mind's eye treat. L.A theatre works did an excellent job in putting it all together and I will not hesitate to buy more of their audio products. Thank goodness Amazon carries a large selection! Highly recommended
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Format: Audio CD
David Henry Hwang's masterpiece must be heard to be appreciated -- no mere reading of the script can do it justice. Nor can David Cronenburg's film version provide a substitute. With all of the political overtones stripped away, the film M. Butterfly becomes just another of the freak shows for which Cronenburg is so well known.

At its heart, Hwang's original play reveals how the hubris and ignorance of the West and its preference for the comforting lies of Orientalism over a reality too harsh for the West to bear leads to downfall -- in Rene Gallimand's case, a humiliating political and personal one; in the West's case, a humiliating political and military loss in the Vietnam War. The parallels are obvious, but in Hwang's hands, so deftly handled that I would recommend the L.A. Theatre Works edition to everyone.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really loved everything about this play. The absurdity of it coupled with the fact that it was based on real events. How the play write tied it in with an existing opera to further depict the psychology behind why the protagonist fell for the antagonist.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It explores the nature and extent of love and how it borders on, and influences, self knowledge. The play take place entirely within the mind of the protagonist, some imagined, some remembered. A challenge to both actors and audience.
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Format: Paperback
M. Butterfly takes the well-known, traditional opera Madame Butterfly, and turns it upside down. It turns inside out the stereotype of Asian American women Americans almost take as fact. The common perceptions of male vs. female, East vs. West, powerful vs. powerless, homosexual vs. heterosexual are all overturned in this short play. Just when the reader thinks he or she knows what is going on, Hwang turns everything over once again. An astoundingly well written play... Be prepared for a surprise!
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Format: Paperback
M. Butterfly is a well-crafted political drama and romance, inspired by a true-life incident in which a Chinese opera star seduces a French diplomat into sharing state secrets. I have not seen the play or the movie, but now I've read this script. It's compelling the way playwright David Henry Hwang frames his version of the story into the well-loved tale of Madame Butterfly, exploring and exposing the Western world's failure--perhaps its refusal--to understand the so-called inscrutable "Orient". As I read the play, set from 1960-1986, I found myself thinking, "So that's why we lost the Vietnam War--well, one reason, anyway."

The story begins with ex-diplomat Rene Gallimard, in prison for treason, watching his vision of his former love Song Liling dancing first to traditional Chinese opera music, then to the straits of Puccini's opera. Rene recalls how he was known and loved by the "Perfect Woman". He recalls meeting Song at the opera in Peking/Beijing, and meetings afterward, including one where Rene asks, "Are you my Butterfly?" Of course, Rene's French wife, Helga, is in Beijing with him, but his affair makes him seem more of a man to himself and to his consulate, which promotes him to vice-consul. Rene knows that like B.F. Pinkerton of the opera, he is emotionally cruel to his paramour, but takes this as a God-ordained privilege of manhood. What he doesn't know is, who's playing whom?

If you remember the 1980s TV ad for M. Butterfly (search on YouTube) and the talk around this Tony Award-winning play, you'll recall the show's Big Secret, which I won't reveal here.

Hwang cleverly matches the action of his play with key moments in Madame Butterfly while satirizing the opera.
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