Monday, March 6, 2017

Review of A-Squared Theatre and Halcyon Theatre's American Hwangap

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called American Hwangap. It was by Lloyd Suh and it was directed by Helen Young. It was about a family whose father Min Suk (Joe Yau) had left them about fifteen years ago to return to Korea from America. He has come back for his hwangap, which is a sixtieth birthday celebration. And of course things are kind of awkward between them because he did leave them behind for 15 years. Ralph (Jin Kim), the youngest, is excited to see his dad an he hopes he will stay around and do father-son stuff together. Esther (Helen Joo Lee), the daughter, isn't really sure how she feels except that her dad could have done better. David (Gordon Chow), the oldest, is really mad at his dad for leaving them behind. He, being the oldest, I think understood the situation better than any of the other kids. And Mary (Cheryl Hamada) is the wife and at first it seems like she doesn't want anything from Min Suk, but over the course of the play she seems to kind of change her mind. It's about family, aging, and how hard it can be to let someone back into your life. I think this is a very funny but heartfelt show. I think this is an intriguing story. I liked it.

Ralph was a really great character. He was the person who everyone wanted to take care of because he'd had a mental breakdown after he had gotten his degree in engineering. He seems to want to stay at home forever because he doesn't have to get a job. In his opening speech he talks about his dad and I thought it was a very touching speech. I really liked it. I think the reason why I liked his character so much is that you get to know him right off the bat. You basically get to see that he really misses his dad and he wishes he'd gotten to spend more time with him and wants to make up for the time lost. He seems so real; the way he talks isn't like a play. It is much less fluid and I think it really makes you connect with the character when you see that it is not that easy for him to express himself. But he can write it down in poems about aliens! He had a bunch of quirky things about him, like he had this book and it was full of a bunch of celebrity birthdays. He was always showing that off and looking up people's birthdays. He can't drink alcohol because of his medication, so he has a fridge full of Juicy Juice juice boxes. I thought it was hilarious and sweet how he would say the full brand name every time.

I think the phone calls between Esther and David seemed very sweet. They seemed to have a very close relationship. They would call each other all the time, and he would tell her stories, and they really wanted to see each other. The stories were there to make her feel better and to kind of explain the situation she was in and also just to be funny for her. Like he told one story about him trying to rescue her from a gnome, but instead he happens to find his parents in flagrante delicto. (My mom just taught me that phrase so I wouldn't have to say anything gross.) And he is trying to calm her down about their parents splitting up and then seeming to get back together. I loved the relationship between Esther and David. It helps the story go back in time without having to really go back in time. It seems like their relationship has always been like that.

I thought the relationship between Min Suk and Mary was interesting. You can't decide if they should be together or not. On the one hand he abandoned her and her children. And on the other hand they seem to make each other happy. One of my favorite scenes was when he had just come home and he was trying to win her back. And she was also bringing all the sass to try to make him jealous. He was trying to hint to try and find out if she had a boyfriend. And she says, "There will be no men coming over." Then she pauses for a second while he looks very happy. And then she says, "I usually go over to his place." I imagined an air horn sound and a bunch of people saying, "Burrrn!" And then eventually he seems to win her over by showing her his "sexy" shark pajamas that go up to his belly button and below his knee. I think their relationship is very cute at some moments but also very sad because you know what he's done to her and the family and how much he regrets it.

People who would like this show are people who like sweet sibling relationships, Juicy Juice juice boxes, and sexy shark pajamas. I think that this was a good show. I thought it was funny, heartwarming, and had memorable characters.

Photos: Marivi Ortiz

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