Dorothy Velasco reviews Oregon Shakespeare Festival's production of Hannah and the Dread Gazebo, the first play by Jiehae Park.
Like many of the plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this season, “Hannah and the Dread Gazebo” marks a journey, both physical and emotional.
This first play by Jiehae Park comes to us as a stylish, amusing production directed by Chay Yew. Hannah, a Korean-American, is about to take the exam to become a board-certified pediatric neurologist in New York when she learns that her grandmother in Korea may have committed suicide.
To investigate the matter, Hannah and her younger brother Dang go to Korea, where their parents have relocated. Along the way Dang encounters an old man who tells him a Korean origin myth about a tiger and a bear. Upon seeing her mother, Hannah acknowledges a heritage of depression passed down through generations.
It’s disturbing for the young Korean-Americans to confront a cultural history they barely know. Even their parents find it difficult to readjust to life in their homeland. Seoul has become a mega-city of concrete high-rise condos. Where are the gardens, the mother asks.
The father, a bike-riding professor, battles with obnoxious bureaucrats to retrieve Grandma’s corpse.
These family dynamics and social ambiguities are typical of immigrants. After families have been torn apart, they face nearly insurmountable obstacles in trying to reunite. Just like North and South Korea, if that reunion ever occurs.
Cindy Im as Hannah, portrays a top student who now wants a strong emotional connection with her family. Sean Jones as Dang uses his Korean identity to be hip in America, but finds that in Korea he’s nobody because he looks like everyone else.
Jessica Ko is a hilarious Shapeshifter, playing everyone from Grandma to bureaucrats to none other than the defunct “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong-il.