Last Updated on May 18, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 828
DHH (David Henry Hwang)
David Henry Hwang creates a semi-autobiographical character in the scripting of DHH. Arrogant, proud, confused, yet honest, DHH exposes his conflicted character throughout the course of the story. At the start of the play, DHH gloats over the success of his previous play, M. Butterfly, and prides himself on becoming a strong role model in the Asian American community. He is appalled when he learns that Broadway will allow Jonathan Pryce to play a Eurasian character in Miss Saigon, so he adamantly protests the musical. The Actors’ Equity Association is on his side until pressured by the media—they then repeal their decision and Miss Saigon is released. Surprisingly, DHH lets go of the issue; he cannot be bothered with challenging the media and sets his sights on other interests. DHH is too absorbed by his own career and success to continue the fight. His desire for success blinds him, and ironically he casts a White actor to play a major Asian role in one of his own plays. Even after DHH is challenged about his casting choice, he refuses to admit he is wrong and instead attempts to cover up his mistake. DHH is heavily criticized and even cited by the government for supposedly conspiring with others to illegally transfer funds. In the end, DHH comes away hoping he can break away from the stereotypes that bind him.
Marcus G. Dahlman / Marcus Gee
A creation of DHH, Marcus G. Dahlman/Marcus Gee represents the ambiguity that lies under society’s perceptions of race, ethnicity, and identity. Hired to play one of the lead roles in DHH’s play Face Value, Marcus gladly accepts the role and does not consider it an issue that the role is for an Asian American. Marcus believes that as an actor, he can represent any character. When DHH approaches Marcus and asks him to take on the name “Marcus Gee,” Marcus does so and enters into the world of the Asian American community. Marcus describes this community as a family of sorts and exclaims that he never felt like he really belonged anywhere until entering this community. Although Marcus is obviously White, people accept him as being Asian American simply because he defines his identity around this ethnic construct. At the end of the play, Marcus confronts DHH and makes him realize that our ideas of race are as much figments of our imagination as they are our reality.
Leah Anne Cho
Leah Anne Cho is one of DHH’s past lovers and is currently Marcus Gee’s girlfriend. When DHH finds out that Leah is dating Marcus, he confronts her by questioning how much she knows about Marcus’s background. Leah has fully accepted the story about Marcus being a Siberian Jew, and DHH is amazed by her naïveté. When DHH asks her if she thinks that Marcus is really Asian, Leah admits that he does not look one hundred percent Asian, but she tells DHH that it really does not matter. Leah is representative of a community that seeks a voice even at the cost of disregarding obvious truths. But Leah must acknowledge the facts when the media reports that Marcus is indeed White. She ends their relationship, angry that Marcus has been living a lie.
HYH (Henry Y. Hwang)
Henry Y. Hwang, David Henry Hwang’s father, is the voice and symbol of the American dream throughout the play. This becomes evident early in Act One, when HYH supports the production of Miss Saigon even though the director, Cameron Mackintosh, has cast Jonathan Pryce, a White actor, in the role of a Eurasian pimp. The play already had a significant run in London and received rave reviews from critics who claimed that Pryce’s stellar performance was essential to the heart of the play. HYH is mesmerized by the romance in the story and tells his son that, like the Vietnamese prostitute in the play who died so that her baby could come to America, people often made sacrifices so that their loved ones could have a better life in America. HYH admits that he would have done anything to come to America, and once he arrived, he fell in love with American icons Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra. He pushed his way to the top, started the bank, and sent his sons to top colleges. HYH prides himself on his rags-to-riches life, and he upholds American ideals even after he is accused of financial treason.
Name Withheld on Advice of Counsel (NWOAC)
A reporter for The New York Times, NWOAOC refuses to be identified. He or she engages in a critical discussion with DHH. It becomes apparent that the reporter, although trying to trap DHH into admitting that he sees a conflict between being Chinese and American, ends up admitting that he or she believes the same. As a result, the ambiguous identity of NWOAOC serves as a symbol for the media overall.