By Bryan Stubbles
This selection of plays really lifts the stigma of ex-pat theatre and puts Seoul Players above and beyond the rest.
For those of you in Utah, when one travels around, one can usually find English-language theatre in various large cities. For example, there’s English theatre in Madrid, Berlin and Jakarta just to name a few. Often, these theatres are run on love and duct tape. Usually staffed by expatriates, they tend not to be professional, so quality can be hit or miss. Everyone has day jobs. Theatre is their passion.
Full disclosure: Many moons ago I used to audition for Seoul Players (when it was run by other folks). Also, among this night’s line up of plays I personally know four of the playwrights. Finally, (full disclosure) my own plays have been rejected by Seoul Players on multiple occasions. That’s just part of the business.
This being a night of plays, I may as well tally them, one-by-one. There was a “Program A” on a separate night. I didn’t see that. Only B.
Frostbite by Nina Mansfield. Directed by John Michaels. What a hoot! A couple is stranded in Siberia and eat something smoked…which turns out to be a human foot! Of their friend who died but is actually 100% alive. I really enjoyed the twists and turns the story took. I don’t want to give away the ending. The acting of Yuliya Shatilova, Kahlid Elijah Tapia and Scott Asti is solid. I do want to single out Mr. Tapia for bringing such a wide range of emotions to a character way, way in over his head. If the acting is solid, that means director John Michaels deserves kudos as well. Great props since the actors were actually eating the foot. Afraid to ask what it was really made of. An enjoyable, yet macabre offering.
How You Will Die by Irene L. Pynn. Directed by Jill Sanders. I haven’t given much thought to how I will die (probably stop breathing or something) but these characters worry themselves sick over it. An interesting man (Maurice Turner) owns a machine that will show you how you will die…for $5,000. Swaggering customer Markham (Kevin Kowalk) may be hiding from the mob. Rich widow (Jungsoo Lee, 이정수) is flirty but still needs to know how she dies. Like the other plays, a lot of twists in this one. Kudos to Mr. Turner for going from meek to diabolical, to Mr. Kowalk for all that cocky swagger and to Ms. Lee for bringing a character who has more dollars than sense and also for tackling a role not in her mother tongue. Props are creative (two blocks made up the “machine”) and Ms. Sanders’ direction and use of space was effective.
Mugged by Michael Zinn. Directed by Jeff Wagner. This is a very unusual play in that it consists of the observations of couples by two coffee mugs. The mugs are done in effective voice over. The couples are good at depicting archetypes (lovey-dovey couple, fighting couple, couple that plays on cell phones). Over time the two mugs fall in love…but tragedy strikes. Probably the saddest ending of the night – of an extremely funny play. It features Brian Peterson, Isabelle Gardo, Matt Yon, Taralyne Hillegonds and David Wagner, also directed by David Wagner. Voice-over with action must be complicated. The director and entire cast pull it off. I don’t know who played what parts, but I want to single out the lady with the English accent in the fighting couple. She seems so real.
A Monogamy of Swans by John Minigan. Directed by Ellie Kostikova. Ellie (Jema Abbate) has threatened to kill some swans at the park. She’s seen tossing them bread. Her “friend” (Rose van Leyenhorst) comes to stop her. Turns out Ellie is seething over her loser ex, Jimmy. Apparently, he’s slept with half of Boston. Her friend tries to comfort her only to reveal that they were more than friends. An absurd, interesting, heartfelt and viciously funny play. Both Abbate and van Leyenhorst were versatile enough to pull it off. Abbate, a native Bostonian, nailed the accent. Rose van Leyenhorst shows her linguist background in performing in a second language and doing it well. She has a lighter Boston accent. The direction by Kostikova was remarkable, making use of the space and expanding it a bit into the audience. They did a good job of revealing characters.
A Case of Anxiety by Mark Harvey Levine. Directed by Makrenna Sterdan. Anxiety has never had it so rough. Robert (Chris Sponagle) has severe anxiety. He can’t survive his morning routine. Dude chokes on a toothbrush. And his scarf. And anything else he can go nuts over. The same cop (Craig Wilson) comes over every time he “almost dies.” Turns out Robert’s wife Marissa (Linda Masikane) really likes when the cop visits – and then some. Poor Robert must man-up and stop worrying…which is fine and dandy until he runs into an escaped gorilla (Jonathan Vergara) and a band of pirates! (Chelci’ Arnold, Chantal Terblanche, Vannessa Lambrecht). The cast is hilarious. Timing is on point. Director Sterdan really handled the piece well. Masikane really brings it as the would-be cheating wife and the fight choreography by Chelci Arnold is deceptively astute. Yes, I saw when the hat rack got knocked over. Yes, it looked totally natural. Great work in an anarchic play!
Backstory by Tim Yackley. Directed by Craig Wilson. Two actors (Chase Lee and Isabelle Gardo) participate in “back story” exercises assigned by their director (also Craig Wilson). Slowly a backstory is revealed…not for their characters, but for themselves. Turns out they had a fling in the past and have a hard time moving on. Lee’s character is laconic and seemingly emotionally stunted. Gardo, meanwhile, breathes life into one of the most impressive monologues I’ve seen in ages. A comedy with serious depth and no fear.
Four Extremely Attractive Women Sitting Around Fantasizing About Rich Orloff by Rich Orloff. Directed by Lynne Lambert. With a title like that, you can’t go wrong. Among the four women is a guy in drag (Tyler Dziubinski), a woman who doesn’t say much, but says exactly what she wants [unprintable here hehehe] (Jema Abbate) – a more subdued woman (Corlia Wilkens) and another one (Toni Timmins) who goes into graphic detail about what she wants from Rich Orloff. Obviously, I don’t want to give away the plot, but the fantasies range from a cabin to something involving Attila the Hun and Romans. Yeah, let’s leave it at that. A hilarious, if perverse, masterpiece. All actors bring their A game and direction was in good hands with Ms. Lambert.
Therapy Dog by Scott Mullen. Directed by Josh Kroot. Once again, a twisted play in a night of twisty, twisted plays. An airport. One man (Jamie Horan) fears flying. He sits next to a woman (Grae Rose). And a therapy dog (Jason Cutler) shows up. But the characters know it’s a human in a stupid dog hat. That doesn’t stop the story from being hilarious. The dog convinces the man to also become a therapy dog – in order to get the attention of a comely passenger (Kate Carter Hickey). But the man becomes addicted to being a therapy dog. Must be seen to be believed. All the actors carry their roles with aplomb.
Some side notes: this was Program B. Program A also consisted of eight plays, but I wasn’t able to watch it. The audience voted for the top four plays of the night. Those four and four from Program A will run against each other next weekend.
One thing that makes this much more unique than plays back in Utah is the sheer diversity of the performers. From what I could tell, there were Korean, American, Canadian, UK, South African, Dutch, Russian and Australian performers. It made for a wonderfully diverse night of theatre.
All the plays had Korean subtitles.
The Seoul Players present 10 Minute Play Festival by Nina Mansfield, Irene L. Pynn, Michael Zinn, John Minigan, Mark Harvey Levine, Tim Yackley, Rich Orloff, Scott Mullen.
Yeollim Hall 136-25 Yeonji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
November 10-12 18
Seoul Players 10 Minute Plays Facebook Event