[ON STAGE]High Art or Soft-Core Porn?

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[ON STAGE]High Art or Soft-Core Porn?

"Nobody gets it. They all think my intentions are too obvious," erupts the principal actor, simply described as a "butterfly collector," in the play "Miranda."

Perhaps this is also a confession from the play's director, Oh Ki-taek, who admits in his production notes that the work is "intellectual pornography" conveying a "social indictment." It may well have been - in the original. Based on a 1963 novel by John Fowles, "The Collector," the play was also made into a serious 1965 film which was nominated for several Hollywood and Cannes awards. In this version, however, pedantic phrases lurk amid displays of skin; I wish I had not been too polite a theatergoer to walk out.

The play involves an obsessive butterfly collector who is fixated on a painter, Miranda. The play opens as the man kidnaps and imprisons her hoping she will fall in love with him. Miranda resists and demands to go home.

The climax of the play comes when the man tries to strangle Miranda with a rope and accuses her of behaving like a prostitute after she offered to trade sex with him for her freedom. Approximately 40 minutes into the show, after a series of tasteless sex scenes, she dies of pneumonia.

When backdrop music, Enigma's "Return to Innocence" begins at this point, the audience is probably wondering if all the displays of flesh on a cheap stage set littered with butterfly origami is actually meant to provide comic relief.

Oh gives no hint in his production notes if such was his intention. He did mention the charges of pornography he faced six years ago when the play first opened and censorship and sexual politics were hot topics among Korean intellectuals.

It is interesting to note the actors' backgrounds. The female lead, Kim So-won, is noted for such movies as "Myeongdong Casanova." The male lead, Jeok Yong has some substantive credits to his name. Oh apparently felt that any attractive body accustomed to sex scenes could play the female lead, but the male role required someone with a background of politically-charged roles. Although Oh may believe he conveyed a social message in this play, it comes across as nothing more substantive than, let's say, "Myeongdong Casanova."

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by Park Soo-mee

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