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Theater Review: "Wild Goose Dreams"

Yunjin Kim and James Kyson in "Wild Goose Dreams."
Photo credit:
Jim Carmody

It’s family vs. flying and reality vs. fantasy in Hansol Jung’s wildly imaginative new play “Wild Goose Dreams,” a co-production between La Jolla Playhouse and New York’s Public Theater, in its world premiere through  Oct. 1 at the Mandell Weiss Forum.

It starts with a fairy tale, wonderfully told by “Father” (Francis Jue), which concludes, “If you have to choose between family and flying, I hope you would choose the flying.”

It’s also the meeting of two lonely people: a South Korean father in Seoul and a North Korean defector. Both are without the anchor of family. “Wild goose” father Minsung (James Kyson) has sent his wife and daughter overseas for the girl’s education while he stays behind in Seoul to make the bucks. Nanhee (Yunjin Kim) has defected from North Korea in search of freedom, but now finds that freedom weighing a bit heavily without human connections.

Nanhee and Minsung meet online – and this is where Jung’e imagination takes over. She’s made the computer almost a character, and its use a musical experience, thanks to composer Paul Castles, whose choral versions of connecting to the Internet are odd, jerky, frequently unintelligible and, well, a lot like you’d expect aural internet connections to sound. Seven actors form a chorus that interprets the blips, bleeps and “you’ve-got-mail”-like sounds of modern computer use – and even dance, to Yasmine Lee’s unusual choreography.

It’s an intriguing concept, at least for a while.

The cast is excellent, from Francis Jue, who plays Nanhee’s father (especially effective in that opening monologue/fairy tale) to the tentative lovers Nanhee and Minsung, played by Yunjin Kim and James Kyson.

Playwright Jung gets points for originality, and so does the chorus for mastering Castles’ devilishly tricky score. But the overuse of the maddening computer chorus (whose words are often – perhaps intentionally – unintelligible) quickly wears out its welcome.

Ultimately, the piece seems to be all over the place, from the computer sounds to Nanhee’s terrifying dreams to the metaphoric penguin that keeps reappearing, demanding its wings back.

Connection is a human need, no question about it. The best thing “Wild Goose Dreams” does is make us ponder how unconnected we’ve become, with all our cell phones and computers designed to bring us together.

The details

“Wild Goose Dreams” plays through October 1, 2017 at La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Forum, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive (on the UCSD campus).

Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm

Tickets: (858) 550-1010 or lajollaplayhouse.org