[ON STAGE]Full bellies and empty hearts

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[ON STAGE]Full bellies and empty hearts

If your favorite activities in life include eating and watching plays, here is the perfect option for your Christmas Eve. Dol refers to a baby's first birthday in Korean, but the play, on stage now in Daehangno, will make you feel like you're at "Babette's Feast." That's because the performers, while on stage, prepare gourmet dishes like steamed marinated ribs and stir-fry noodles. Sponsored in part by the Nolbu restaurant chain and the OB Lager beer company, the story deals with a series of turbulent episodes that occur during the first birthday party of a middle-aged couple's new daughter, Hye-jin.

The play begins with the friends of Jung-sook, the baby's mother, recalling their good old college years while in the kitchen preparing a meal. As the feast begins, the family plays a fortune-telling game, where the birthday baby chooses one of several representative objects to decide her destiny.

Ji-ho, Jung-sook's husband, wants his daughter to become a scholar, and he is extremely happy when the baby picks up a pencil, which stands for the intellect. Jung-sook, however, is unsatisfied with the result, and quickly slips a small coin into the baby's fist, hoping she will lead a wealthy life. Ji-ho is displeased with his materialistic wife.

As the story progresses, the tension builds and the husband overthrows a table into the crowd. The strongest visual cue in the play, some noodles crash to the floor, suggesting the couple's tangled relationship.

The play is interesting in that it uses food as a metaphor for different moments in our everyday lives. For example, the audience is enticed when Jung-sook's friends are preparing a meal in the kitchen, while recalling the sweetest moments in their lives. Later in the story, when the couple selfishly argues over their child's future, the play shows a lavish feast at the table, with the adults devouring the food around them, suggesting the insatiability of human desire.

The production is also innovative in that it parallels food with methods of survival. "Dol," despite its use of food to enhance the set, deals mostly with an ordinary Korean couple who comes to celebrate the birth of a newborn child among their conflicting realities, often mixing despair and hope. Like the food, their lives sometimes taste bitter, and other times sweet.

For more information, call 02-764-3380.

by Park Soo-mee

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