Halcyon Theatre and A-Squared Theatre’s AMERICAN HWANGAP Review – Throwing Asian Stereotypes Aside

A-Squared Theatre AMERICAN HWANGAP
Cheryl Hamada and Joe Yau Photo: Marivi Ortiz

Halcyon Theatre brings diversity to Chicago stage

With the aid of A-Squared Theatre and their host Halcyon Theatre, Chicago audiences can now see Asian characters that defy the usual stereotypes.

In fact, other than the top layer trappings of the events happening around the traditional Korean big deal 60th birthday of one of the characters, this could be a tale about any broken family of any ethnic tradition.

The children, now grown, are close in the way that children often become when they are abandoned by one or both their parents. The baby brother it seems will find his salvation in rock n roll. The sister has gone through two husbands. The older brother assures his father that he gets his share of “blonds”. If there’s kimchee involved, the taste of American Pie comes to dominate the meal.

AMERICAN HWANGAP view of Korean-American culture

In fact, taking in this play with a Korean-American friend whose father disappeared and then reappeared around the time of his Hwangap, just like the characters in this story, she wonders if the liberties with Korean-American culture went a step too far. It’s not a common Korean tale, actually, these Hwangap-driven reunions with Dads that had gone missing. Would Korean born immigrants like the mother and father in this family’s story say things like Korean culture is “f**ed up” or such a father refer to his daughter as a “tightass”? Hmm…

There seem to be more than a few loose ends in Lloyd Suh’s script, with some puzzling asides by the characters that one would hope will be left on the cutting room floor in future re-stagings of this play. Yet there is also many a line that gave various audience members a good belly laugh.

Best scenes

The best scenes are the two in the opening. First, we meet Jin Kim as Ralph Chun, who immediately establishes himself as quirky and loveable. He is wearing a ceremonial robe that his father, the Hwangap celebrant, would usually be wearing, but never mind that.

A-Squared Theatre AMERICAN HWANGAP
Jin Kim playing the baby son with psychiatric difficulties, quickly establishes the quirky charm of his character in this opening scene Photo: Marivi Ortiz
A-Squared Theatre AMERICAN HWANGAP
Joe Yau playing the returning father meets his daughter, Esther Chun played by Helen Joo Lee, at the airport Photo: Marivi Ortiz

Then, the timing between actress Helen Joo Lee as daughter Esther Chun, with her father Min Suk Chun played by Joe Yau is perfect and engaging.

Halcyon Theatre’s commitment to diversity on Chicago’s stages as evidenced by this partnership with A-Squared Theatre is laudable. Truly, Asians whose personal stories are the most numerous on the globe and whose numbers in Chicago are certainly greater than their representation on our stages are just plain underrepresented. Another plus of Halcyon productions is their reserve of several seats for free admission on a first come first served basis.

WTTW fans will also get a kick to see public television champion Cheryl Hamada in person on the stage before them. She plays Mary Chun, the mother who makes the whole story happen.

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.

When:

Now thru April 1, 2017

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM
Sundays at 6 PM

Where:

Halcyon Theatre
4541 North Spaulding Avenue
Chicago, IL

Tickets:

$20 or first come first served day of free admission tickets

Buy advance tickets online

 

Photos:  Marivi Ortiz

 

A-Squared Theatre AMERICAN HWANGAP
Gordon Chow as elder son David Chun Photo: Marivi Ortiz

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