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Review: AMONG THE DEAD at SPOOKY ACTION THEATER

Review: AMONG THE DEAD at SPOOKY ACTION THEATER

Among the Dead, written by Hansol Jung and directed by Richard Henrich is playing at the Spooky Action Theater in Washington DC between February 14 - March 10, 2019 and will undoubtedly rouse your awareness of the resilience and vulnerability of the human psyche.

The performance highlights the unfathomable cost, moral ambiguity, and lasting repercussions of warfare. The four-character production takes place in a small hotel room in Korea and invites the audience into intimately shocking moments experienced by "Number Four" (Kyosin Kang), a "Korean comfort woman;" Luke (Chris Stinson), a young American soldier fighting in the jungles of Burma in 1944, and their daughter Ana (Julie M*). Through her father's journal brought to her by Jesus (Nahm Darr), a surreal character, Ana becomes privy to her parents' encounters during the war and learns about her own identity.

The play begins with several minutes of what sounds vaguely like chimes. This ambiguous start seems unnecessary, but is juxtaposed with an engaging dispute between Number Four, a new mother, and Luke, the father of her child. Their dialogue suggests the realization of their new lives as post-war parents, and the fact that their daughter Ana is a symbol of the physical and emotional violence of which they were victimized, participated in, and barely survived.

The audience was riveted by expressions of fear and anguish experienced by the characters throughout the war. The characters shudder and cry and scream in moments of violence and burst into monologue of internal moral debate when presented with choices that require prioritization either of their own and someone else's safety and well-being. These scenes had the audience grasping their chairs in horror of the destruction that the characters reveal even the most honorable people are capable of committing in times of distress. Ana herself alludes to this revelation and poses the question, "What if who you actually are is worse than who you thought you are?" This query ties together the parallel themes in each character's life and conveys a consciousness the audience is prodded to examine. The angst during these moments are alleviated by the frequent interjection of the character Jesus, who comically provides slightly unrefined but well-placed humor.

The distinction between the living and dead characters is blurred, amplifying the experience of war and underscoring the theme described in the title, living "among the dead." While the ambiguity and convolution is strategic, there were plot holes, which were not. It is unclear, for example, how Ana ends up in a Korean hotel, how her mother returns to her family, or how personalities mentioned in the play are relevant to the primary characters' development.

Despite these few snags, the play will tug at your heart strings, jolt you to laugh, cry, and gasp in disbelief, and leave you with a cathartic sense of our shared humanity. The performance can be best described using the words uttered at least once by each character during moments of conflict and shame-"it's complicated."

Tickets are available for purchase on the Spooky Action Theater Website: https://www.spookyaction.org/current-productions.html



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An avid explorer of the world, Naomi often finds herself at the intersection of the arts, business, politics, and activism. She has a particular affinity for social advocacy, and therefore supports... (read more about this author)