The Mokwha Repertory Company from Seoul, Korea, will only be playing Taesuck Oh’s adaptation of The Tempest until Sunday, November 23.  The last time the director, playwright, and company founder was at La Mama was over 35 years ago—which may make seeing this refreshing, shortened version of Shakespeare’s play (it’s 90 minutes) something of an imperative. Oh is one of Korea’s leading theatre artists, and his productions have won awards and honors around the world—including a 2011 Herald Angel Award at the Edinburgh International Arts Festival.  What is immediately noticeable is the discipline of the actors, sitting unmoving at the start in tableau, wearing white, backs to the audience.   As they become waves and enact Shakespeare’s storm of the title, we are also made aware of a lack of technology.  A musician, primarily using a drum and bell, lends acoustic effects, but beyond these, and lighting, we are treated to the simplicity of theatre (the stage is bare, except for props).  The actors dance, imitate animals, and sing folk songs—the stage is alive with a natural life and humanity. Masks and traditional costumes (others are seemingly influenced by Italian Commedia dell-arte) allow a ceremonial or improvisational feel (some underscore the fact that the characters in the Shakespeare play are originally Milanese). The Korean folk influence is additionally strong—apparently Oh’s Tempest has also been “inspired by a true story from the Korean Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms and [the play] is set in 5th century Korea.”  If you know Shakespeare’s late work, you will have no problem picking out Prospero, Miranda, Ariel, Caliban, and Ferdinand, among the others (the production, in Korean, uses supertitles). If you don’t, it doesn’t really matter. There is a purity to this production no one should have to wait almost forty years to see again on the New York stage.

Visit La Mama: http://lamama.org/the-tempest/

Featuring: Kunil Bae, Seungmok Cheon, Jingak Chung, Jeeyoung Jeong, Wonjun Jo, Yeonju Jung, Bonghyun Kim, Bora Kim, Joonbum Kim, Junyoung Lee, Seungbae Lee, Seungyeol Lee, Minji Lim, Jihoon Park, Youngkwang Song, Jaeyeun Yoo, Minyeong Yoon.

Costumes: Seungmu Lee

Lighting: Kyungcheon Lee

Stage Manager: Dongwook Ha

Adapted and Directed from Shakespeare by Taesuk Oh

© 2014 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.    

Press: Miguel Mendiola

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