[ON STAGE]Been There, Cried About That

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[ON STAGE]Been There, Cried About That

Three women, a mother and her two daughters, live dramatically different lives, united only by sorrow.

The mother, played by veteran television actress Kang Bu-ja, is a weak-willed, emotional woman who still prepares her husband's meals 15 years after he left her for another woman. Her eldest daughter, Hee-su, is fed up with her mother's passive attitude toward her own life. Hee-su trains herself to be an independent woman, and she grows up and succeeds in becoming a capable newspaper reporter, but in the process, comes to hate all men.

The youngest daughter, Jee-su agrees neither with her subservient mother nor her man-hating sister. Jee-su decides instead to enter a lesbian relationship with an old friend.

Then one day, the siblings find out that their mother is in the last phase of severe stomach cancer. The sisters gather around their mother's deathbed.

The title of the play "My Mother's Jasmine Flower" reflects the mother's life-long hobby. The activity of growing plants, however, also is symbolic of the mother's passive attitude toward men. In the play, the mother anxiously waits by the plant for the flowers to bloom and inhales their fragrance, even though she knows that the very fragrance often makes her severely nauseated; waiting is her fate and she cannot escape it.

Perhaps the construction of this play is stale to many contemporary theater-goers who have had enough Korean soap operas dealing with a story like this: A man leaves his family and the children grow up to be trouble, and all the while, the wife suffers nobly, without learning how to improve her lot.

Though the production styles itself as a "feminist play," the label is without meaning or significance for this play. The director Kim Hyun-tak doesn't seem to provide any reasoning for the fate of these three women, nor does he provide a critique about the patriarchal ordeals they go through.

Instead, he simply reiterates their struggles and dramatizes them into a sentimental play. There are a lot of tear-jerking scenes, which many females in the audience may find touching, but there is no real catharsis. And this is what makes the play "My Mother's Jasmine Flower" entertaining as tear-jerking drama, but rather empty as a meaningful play.

by Park Soo-mee

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