M Butterfly, at the Cort Theatre, is a revival of David Henry Hwang’s Tony-award-winning play. British actor Clive Owen stars in his return to Broadway. Julie Taymor is the director, with sets by Paul Steinberg, costumes by Constance Hoffman, sound by Will Pickens, and lighting by Donald Holder. Mr. Owen plays René Gallimard, a French diplomat working in the 1960s in Beijing. He falls in love with Song Liling (played by Jin Ha), a Chinese opera diva, and they begin a torrid affair. Song is obsessed with the opera Madame Butterfly and is also a Communist Party spy. Gallimard tells the story from his prison cell after he is convicted of spying.
The story takes place against the backdrop of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution and the milieu of the Chinese Communist Party. The sets feature sliding screens depicting Mao’s accomplishments, and the play is replete with exotic costumes, operatic music, and dance.
The ultimate shock is that even after having a sexual relationship, Gallimard still does not realize that his love is a man.
Essentially, M Butterfly is interesting to a limited audience. Certainly it is not a show for the entire family.