M. Butterfly

M. Butterfly Tickets

Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner Clive Owen returns to Broadway to star in the first major New York revival of David Henry Hwang's 1988 Tony Award-winning play M. Butterfly. The production is directed by Broadway favorite and Tony Award winner Julie Taymor.

The play has undergone extensive re-writes by Mr. Hwang, in collaboration with Ms. Taymor, specifically for this Broadway revival. This new version contains much more factual information and delves more deeply into the psyche and the relationship between the central characters of Rene Gallimard (Clive Owen) and Song Liling (Jin Ha). Based on a true story, there was very little information about the case in the late 1980's in the public domain. In fact, Mr. Hwang only came across the story in a single column on page 27 of the New York Times one day. Nowadays, so much more detail has emerged about this extraordinary case of espionage, mistaken identity and gender fluidity. This has given both playwright and director the opportunity to expose the story in a new light - a story narrated to us from a prison cell in Paris in 1986.

Ms. Taymor's production is stylized in design, drawing inspiration from Japanese Bunraku techniques and Chinese puzzle boxes. Her use of shifting screens of steel, smoked glass, and materials depicting traditionally Asian artwork is hypnotic to the eye and yet still manages to radiate the coldness of a prison cell. True, this story is unravelled through the medium of Gallimard's imagination, but it never feels luxuriously aggrandized. There is a perceptible Brechtian feel about this revival, as we, the audience, are always aware that we are watching the re-telling of a story, rather than simply the story itself. The characters dispute what should be told and what is irrelevant. Gallimard even threatens to pull the plug on the whole charade at one point. In spite of this, and perhaps a credit to the skill of Mr. Owen himself, we still feel a connection to Gallimard. We want to understand him. We yearn for happiness for the unlikely pairing of Gallimard and Liling.

Hwang's insight into attitudes of East and West are perhaps equally as intriguing as the question of gender in this play. Jin Ha delivers a couple of punching speeches about the "masculinity" of the West and the "feminity" of the East and Westerners perceptions that the East's desire is to be dominated by the West. "Our mouths say No, but our eyes say Yes..." Although the play was written almost thirty years ago, these cultural and stereotypical impressions still rang true throughout the audience. Although gender fluidity is perhaps not quite as shocking today as it was in the 1980's, racial issues remain ubiquitous in our times and here Mr. Hwang has excelled once again by exposing them on the Broadway stage, with the help of a stellar cast of both Asian and Caucasian actors and a director, who is not afraid to take chances in her work.

(Photos by Matthew Murphy)

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Running time: 
2hrs 15 mins (including 1 intermission)
9 images
About M. Butterfly:

This modern classic charts the scandalous romance between a married French diplomat and a mysterious Chinese opera singer – a remarkable love story of international espionage and personal betrayal. Their 20-year relationship pushed and blurred the boundaries between male and female, east and west – while redefining the nature of love and the devastating cost of deceit.

David Henry Hwang
Nelle Nugent, Steve Traxler, Kenneth Teaton, Benjamin Feldman, Doug Morris, and Spencer Ross
Julie Taymor
Donald Holder
Will Pickens
Paul Steinberg
Ma Cong
Constance Hoffman
Cast list:
Clive Owen (as Rene Gallimard), Jin Ha (as Song Liling), with Clea Alsip, Murray Bartlett, Michael Countryman, Celeste Den, Jess Fry, Enid Graham, Thomas Michael Hammond, Cole Horibe, Jason Ignacio, Kristen Faith Oei, Erica Sweany, John Leonard Thompson, and Erica Wong
Other info:
Original Music by Elliot Goldenthal, Wig & Hair Design by Dave Bova, and Make-up Design by Judy Chin
M. Butterfly Performance Dates & Times
Previews from: 
October 7, 2017
Opening date: 
October 26, 2017
December 17, 2017

Performance schedules for all shows are subject to change.

Cort Theatre

138 West 48th Street (between Broadway and 6th Avenue), New York, NY 10036
Nearest subway station:
49th Street station

Latest M. Butterfly News & Features

Interview with Tony Award winner Julie Taymor
November 27, 2017

Julie Taymor is regarded as one of the most prolific directors in the theatre industry today. Besides her Tony Award-winning efforts on Disney's The Lion King (for both "Best Direction of a Musical" and "Best Costume Design"), she also earned great acclaim - as well as two Tony Award nominations - for her Broadway directorial debut with Juan Darien in 1996.

Interview with M. Butterfly star Clive Owen
October 31, 2017

The New York Theatre Guide recently caught up with Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner Clive Owen. The British actor is currently starring as Rene Gallimard in the first-ever Broadway revival of David Henry Hwang's Tony Award-winning play M. Butterfy, directed with a stylized, Brechtian touch by Tony Award winner Julie Taymor. Mr. Owen made his Broadway debut in September 2015 as Deeley in the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Harold Pinter's Old Times at the American Airlines Theatre.

Clive Owen & Jin Ha
NYTG at the Broadway Opening of M. Butterfly
October 27, 2017

The 2017-2018 Broadway season kicked into fifth gear last night as acclaimed director Julie Taymor's new production of David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly officially opened on the Great White Way. The Cort Theatre was brimming with excitement and anticipation to see Ms. Taymor's take on Hwang's epic play, almost thirty years after it took home "Best Play" at the 1988 Tony Awards.

Our M. Butterfly Review

Substantially reworked by its author for this second Broadway run, M. Butterfly – a smash hit in 1988 – made a star of actor B.D. Wong, while earning David Henry Hwang the distinction of being the first Asian-American playwright with a major production on the Great White Way.