BWW Review: The Meaning of Living Together, ALONG WITH THE GODS: LAND OF THE LIVING at CJ Towol Theatre In Seoul Arts Center
Seoul Performing Arts Company(SPAC) comes back with another original musical this year. ALONG WITH THE GODS: LAND OF THE LIVING is a sequel to ALONG WITH THE GODS, which is now a major SPAC repertoire. Just like ALONG WITH THE GODS, the sequel is also an adaptation of the webtoon of the same title. While ALONG WITH THE GODS mainly dealt with the afterlife of people, ALONG WITH THE GODS: LAND OF THE LIVING focuses on the current life of people.
ALONG WITH THE GODS: LAND OF THE LIVING introduces eight-year-old Dong-Hyun, who lives with his grandfather. They live in a neighborhood called Hanwool-dong, which becomes a target of the city's redevelopment scheme. In their house, two of the last current world's gods, Seongju, the House Guardian God, and Jowang, the Kitchen God remain. Due to cities developing, current world's gods have been going back to the afterworld, but Seongju and Jowang in Dong-Hyun's house decided to stay in this world, protecting Dong-Hyun and his grandfather. ALONG WITH THE GODS: LAND OF THE LIVING also brings back the characters Deok-Chun and Haewonmaek, working to bring back dead souls to the afterworld. The story follows Seonju and Jowang protecting Dong-Hyun's grandfather from Deok-Chun and Haewonmaek, and protecting the house that they live in from the demolition it is facing.
ALONG WITH THE GODS: LAND OF THE LIVING confronts directly with some of the problems in the current society, such as the high unemployment rate among the young and the excessive redevelopment plans of cities. Even though it is impossible to stop these problems from happening, ALONG WITH THE GODS: LAND OF THE LIVING shows how the victims of these problems fight in their daily lives to survive each day. Even though their livings are not that good, we find Dong-Hyun's neighbors taking care of Dong-Hyun. The warmth of community contrasting with the cruelty caused by the illegal demolition company that hurries Hanwool-dong residents to move out shows how harsh the reality could be.
The underlying message about belief in humanity and the sense of community is emphasized by having Park Seong-Ho, a worker in the illegal demolition company that destructs Hanwool-dong. Park Seong-Ho is unemployed and is at about to lose everything when a call from his old friend suggests that he work in the illegal demolition company. Seong-Ho, while hesitating if it is right to earn money by destroying other people's lives, gets persuaded by other workers in the company when they claim that he is living a more miserable life than the people he has to drive out. Even though he has to follow the orders of the company, Seong-Ho does not lose empathy for people and changes his mind about the pity for himself. How Seong-Ho realizes that his actions hurt others and how he decides to help people rather than destroying others' lives represents how compassion is still left in our minds, even in this busy and heartless society.
Also, it was refreshing to have Dong-Hyun on stage, since some parts of the show were depicted from an eight-year-old child's view. While the neighborhood adults are protesting against the police and the demolition company's workers, the stage was contrastingly decorated with images of flowers and trees that seemed like they were drawn with crayons. Hanwool-dong from Dong-Hyun's viewpoint shown on stage made Hanwool-dong seem more like a place that was special to Dong-Hyun and his neighbors.
With Seoul Performing Arts Company's ensemble and guest actors Oh Jong-Hyuk(as the protagonist Park Seong-Ho), Ko Chang-Seok(as the House Guardian God, Seongju), and Lee Yun-Woo(as Dong-Hyun, who plays a huge role in making Seong-Ho change his mind) filled the stage with a story that many people would relate to and think once more about their lives. Living in a society where more people are starting to live alone and individualism is being more emphasized, ALONG WITH THE GODS: LAND OF THE LIVING seemed like a show that would highlight the meaning of living together. The hospitality of neighbors and the sense of community underlined in the show comforted the minds of the audience while making them think once more about our loved ones.
ALONG WITH THE GODS: LAND OF THE LIVING at CJ Towol Theatre in Seoul Arts Center
Closed on June 29th, 2019
Photo Credit: Seoul Performing Arts Company