[ON STAGE]Life - and How Not to Live It

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[ON STAGE]Life - and How Not to Live It

The play "Longing for Youth" is a story about people who don't have much to say about their lives. The main character, whose name is never revealed, is a high school student whose future seems utterly hopeless. He wears his school uniform when he loiters in the streets smoking, but he rarely attends classes. His jobless father sits in front of the TV all day and drinks soju bought with money he purloins from his blind ex-wife, who works at a massage parlor. She became blind when her husband flung acid in her eyes during one of their innumerable fights.

The feelings between the three family members have surpassed conventional notions of disappointment and hate. In fact, the family remains bound together emotionally only through the deep sense of pity they feel toward each other and their isolation from mainstream society. Bearing this out, the son at one point decides to move in with a waitress, who suffers from epilepsy, he meets in a low-class bar. His motivation is pure commiseration - the boy reasons that her life is miserable just like his own.

The questions that remain after watching these hapless characters stand by while their lives fade away center around violence and maturity. Why don't these people ever learn from their experiences?

Anticipating this, the director of the play, Park Keun-hyung, asks in his production note, "Is there such a thing as a meaningless life?" Perhaps there is. He goes on to explain about the people in Korean society who are vulnerable to such misfortune and the oppression they face in their everyday lives. But underneath the ostensible message of despair there is a sense that Park is inspired by this type of drama, and is perhaps gestating another story that may further satisfy his artistic appetites.

Park blames the social system for the miseries of society's have-nots. However, the scenario he creates in "Longing" is too weak to address all of his social concerns. As a result, the play ends up something like the hit Korean film "Friends," which likewise attempted but failed to pose a critical question amid the drama.

But again like "Friends," "Longing for Youth" is a compelling tale full of tension and surprising coincidences. Notwithstanding the dark subject matter and its flaws, the acting in "Longing" is refined to a level that is not often seen on stage. For information, call 016-263-2013.

by Park Soo-mee

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