[ON STAGE]The Condiments of Existence

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[ON STAGE]The Condiments of Existence

Kim Myeong-hwa, 35, is one of the few people in the Korean performing arts scene who both creates plays and criticizes them. As a playwright, Kim has written two plays so far - "Birds Do Not Step On the Crosswalk" (1997) and "Oedipus, He's a Human Being" (2000). Both of her works were acclaimed for her shrewd ability to point out absurdities that exist in society.

Now, she is back with her third play, the rather strangely titled "Cello and Ketchup." It's pleasant to say that Kim's skill at storytelling has matured and gotten even better, especially at a time when good, sensible plays are hard to find.

Kim Ho-jeong, who was awarded the prize for best actress recently at the Locarno International Film Festival for her role in the movie "Butterfly" ("Nabi"), stars as a bank accountant whose favorite food is ketchup. She likes to serve her husband large servings of fried rice with a plentiful portion of ketchup. The husband (Nam Myeong-ryeol), once dreamed of being a cellist, but has given up that dream because of a traffic accident. Now, he gave up on life and only sits around and daydreams of what might have been.

When the curtain rises, the first scene that the audience sees features the husband and wife minding their own business. The husband is clipping his toenails while immersed in memories of another woman. On the opposite part of the stage, the wife is slicing onions, crying. But the strings of a cello connect the husband's relationship with the wife indicates that there is still some hope for this couple.

Soon they start fighting - the wife threatens and yells at her husband, but he ignores her.

Despite the rather hackneyed premise, Kim and the director Chae Seung-hun do a decent job in capturing the quintessence of our lives by displaying the humdrum of daily routines. The performance of the actors is especially good.

Bach's Suites for Solo Cello play in the background, setting the mood for much of the play. A lecture by husband about musical counterpoint becomes a metaphor for life, and is the point of this play.

"Cello and Ketchup" tries to point out that the love between married couple is something hard to define, a combination of familiar and unfamiliar feelings. For more information, call 1588-7890.

by Jeong Jae-wal

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