BWW Review: Hansol Jung's Imaginatively Told Internet Age Romance, WILD GOOSE DREAMS
"If you have to choose between family and flying, I hope you would choose the flying," a father tells his children as the lesson behind a bedtime story involving an angel and a woodcutter. "And don't tell mommy I said that," he's quick to add.
As told with engaging warmth and a tad of saltiness by stage gem Francis Jue, the lovely bit of fantasy that opens Hansol Jung's imaginatively told Internet Age romance, Wild Goose Dreams, is followed by an intricate verbal chorus of binary codes and commands performed with rapid-fire intensity by the ensemble of Dan Domingues, Lulu Fall, Kendyl Ito, Jaygee Macapugay, Joel Perez, Jamar Williams and Katrina Yaukey.
Surrounding them, and the audience, in director Leigh Silverman's skillfully balanced production, is designer Clint Ramos' imposing collage of neon, signage and antiquated portraits representing contemporary Seoul, South Korea and the shadows of what it once was.
In the middle of the cacophonous bombardment is Nanhee (Michelle Krusiec) a now grown-up child of that father who chose to fly, defecting from North Korea four years ago. She regularly arranges to have money smuggled back to her family but isn't positive they actually receive it, and is engaged in a plan to have a cell phone snuck across the border to them.
At the same time, a South Korean father, Minsung (Peter Kim), attempts to contact his wife and daughter who have been living in America for seven years so that the girl can get a better education and attend a western university. It's a common practice for men known in Korea as "goose fathers" who, like Minsung, live modest lifestyles so they may send more of their earnings abroad.
Extreme loneliness sends both of them to an online dating app (their digital presences are amusingly played by Fall and Perez) and the shy Minsung is upfront about his situation when they initially chat online.
Their bonding is a tricky one, as both have hearts that are more concerned with those they can't be with. Nanhee has nightmares of her father being cruelly punished for her defection and Minsung fears his daughter (Ito) has become emotionally distant. The constant barrage of digital stimulation that has become a part of everyday life can be seen as a dehumanizing annoyance, but when the two are driven apart, it's a viral video that helps reunite them.
If the text and staging's complicated (and admirably realized) impersonation of 21st century communication sometimes overwhelms the emotional factor, it's an apt comment displaying the parallels between storybook fables of angels and woodcutters and technologically sophisticated fantasies, sometimes involving defectors and goose fathers.