Party Play: "M. Butterfly"

Beth Fhaner
 | May 21, 2019

Celebrated playwright David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly, a tale of obsession, perception and the allure of fantasy, opened to an appreciative and mesmerized audience on Friday, May 17, 2019, on the Segerstrom Stage.  M. Butterfly—a Tony Award-winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist—concludes SCR’s 2018-19 season.

Hwang has a nearly three-decade relationship with SCR, which premiered his Golden Child (1997) and produced Chinglish (2013, with Berkeley Repertory Theatre). M. Butterfly, Hwang’s break-out hit when it premiered on Broadway in 1988, is a compelling drama about the passionate 20-year affair between a married French diplomat and a mysterious Chinese opera diva. Inspired by true events, M. Butterfly captivated the First Night audience, delivering two hours of extraordinary performances, exquisite costumes and wigs, and spectacular acrobatic dance sequences under the expert direction of Desdemona Chiang and choreographer Annie Yee. Theatregoers immediately showed their admiration for this stunning work with enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation.

Led by Jake Manabat as Song Liling and Lucas Verbrugghe as René Gallimard, the entire ensemble delivered impressive performances while transporting the audience to Paris and Beijing during the decades of the 1950s-1980s. The talented cast also includes Aaron Blakely, Melody Butiu, Stephen Caffrey, Nike Doukas and Juliana Hansen. The ensemble included Annika Alejo, Yoko Hasebe, Andres Lagang and Sophy Zhao, all of whom performed the incredible dance numbers.

Honorary Producers and First Night attendees Geoff and Valerie Fearns greatly enjoyed seeing the play and commented, “Desdemona [Chiang’s] creativity with the story was captivating! The use of breaking the fourth wall with the audience gave us the ability to feel like we were actually there with René and his ‘Butterfly’. It was a lovely tribute to a delicate story.”

Honorary Producer Michael Ray was also in attendance on First Night and found M. Butterfly to be as relevant and entertaining as ever. “This production is beautifully staged and acted with great passion and sensitivity,” he said. “While it challenges us to think about timely issues of gender and geopolitics, it also presents us with a timeless story about whom and why we love. It’s a moving, challenging and riveting night at the theatre!”

Guests who attended the cast party on Ela’s Terrace were welcomed to an inviting scene, as red starlight linen-covered tables and twinkling overhead lights created a festive atmosphere, along with large bouquets featuring red roses and gorgeous crimson florals.

Crème de la Crème provided the catering for the celebratory soiree, which was sponsored by South Coast Plaza as part of their season sponsorship for Segerstrom Stage’s 40th anniversary. With a menu inspired by Asian cuisine, partygoers feasted on an array of scrumptious hors d’oeuvres such as petite vegetarian spring rolls with a lemongrass-miso dipping sauce, roasted garlic chicken skewers with ginger plum reduction and steak au poivre with Dijon, mustard seeds, cornichons and capers on rye toast points.

Other delectable appetizers included Angus beef sliders with brie cheese, slow-roasted pear and fig compote, spinach dip with carrot and celery sticks and pomme chips with spicy ketchup. The Asian salad, comprised of Napa cabbage, snow peas, bean sprouts, Julienne carrots, bell peppers, crispy wonton strips and Asian sesame ginger dressing, and served in petite, to-go containers, was also a popular dish. For a sweet finish, guests indulged in tempting treats such as house-made lemon bar bites, chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies in the shape of a butterfly.

From the bar, the play-inspired signature cocktail was dubbed “Le Papillon”—a delicious beverage that blended Tito’s Handmade Vodka with Lychee Liqueur and pink lemonade.

First Night theatregoers were delighted to have the opportunity to meet the director and the entire cast during the after-party. As guests mingled with fellow theatregoers into the evening, much appreciation and acclaim continued for the cast and creative team of M. Butterfly, Hwang’s enthralling, remarkable tale of espionage, East-West relations and betrayal.

Learn more about M. Butterfly and buy tickets.