San Diego Theater Review: WILD GOOSE DREAMS (La Jolla Playhouse)

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by Tony Frankel on September 14, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


It’s amazing. Thousands of billions of electronic messages are delivered every month globally, but it doesn’t feel like a small world after all. For many, these missives—texts, e-mails, IMs—are the illusion of connecting, and so the world feels more pummeling, pushy and precarious than ever. To wit, survey after survey indicates that the number of people identifying as “lonely” is rising exponentially. But what if you’re a North Korean woman defector (Yunjin Kim as Nanhee) who is longing to connect with her family in her erstwhile home? What if you’re a South Korean man (James Kyson as Minsung) who is forced to scrimp so that he can support his wife and child living in the States for the sake of his daughter’s education (a.k.a. “goose dad”). The internet can look like a promising place to deal with loneliness.

In Hansol Jung’s Wild Goose Dreams, these two will begin an on-line romance that leads to an awkward physical affair: The family Minsung supports is slipping through his fingers and Nanhee’s anxiety is causing hallucinations (a talking penguin head popping out of a toilet is riotous). To tell the tale, the Korean playwright uses a whimsical, capricious, creative context: A diverse young seven-member ensemble becomes the sounds of electronica—from binary tones to “you have a message” to emoji descriptions—and Nanhee’s father (Francis Jue, endearingly vaudevillist) is manifested while his daughter has sex.

Inventively directed by Leigh Silverman on Wilson Chin’s simple wooden stage with a perimeter of water, this world premiere loses steam when an eleventh hour tragedy occurs. The only characters we connect with are Nanhee, Minsung and Father, so when Minsung’s daughter sends a message, it leaves us cold. Perhaps that’s the point, and there’s nothing wrong with an untidy ending, but the storytelling takes second fiddle to the way it is told, which at 120 intermissionless minutes, wears thin.

Still, it’s an effective outing; the play says much about the internet, isolation, borders, family, and other universal issues without feeling overwhelming or pretentious. It’s bittersweet, funny, and thought-provoking (that Nanhee longs for her motherland even in the current political climate is understandable and devastating at the same time). At this stage, it’s necessary viewing. Tweak the ending and La Jolla Playhouse’s production will really take wing.

photos by Jim Carmody

Wild Goose Dreams
La Jolla Playhouse
co-produced with The Public Theater
2910 La Jolla Village Dr in La Jolla
Tues and Wed at 7:30; Thurs and Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2 & 7
ends on October 1, 2017
for tickets, call 858.550.1010 or visit La Jolla Playhouse

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