[ON STAGE]The Weight of Worldly SinsThe theater company Inhyunk's new production "The Century's Greatest Horror Story," does not follow a linear story line.
In the play, a young man described as a "shushan boy" (shoe shine boy) passes a haunted house in the amusement park near the store where he works. Exhausted from the day's heat and labor, he enters the house, not knowing there is a surreal world inside where 10 great kings from different parts of hell (think Dante's "Inferno") judge their visitors' sins and assign ghastly punishments.
Later in the story, the boy confesses his sins and becomes a permanent citizen of the haunted house. This is as far as the plot is explained. The audience has to uncover the rest of the play's symbols and hidden meanings.
There are suggestive references in the play, such as 10 great kings and "citizens of 1,000 years," which alludes to after-life beliefs in Buddhism and Taoism. According to Buddhist theory, each king is responsible for different categories of sin and each represents a different element of hell, such as fire, ice, snake venom and darkness.
What makes this production particularly interesting is that this whole process of judgment is often heavy with humor and irony, and their acts of punishment are merely "prescriptions," as routine as something filled at a pharmacy. The Chogang King from the second act, for example, weighs the sinner's clothing on a scale to determine the weight of the person's worldly sins.
The director of the play, Lee Ki-do, focuses extensively on the measure of "truth," which in the play varies depending on the king. Perhaps Lee is questioning the legitimacy of someone other than the sinner himself judging other's actions. Near the end, Lee issues a vague suggestion that all sins should be left to the sinner's conscience; real punishment lies within the sinner himself.
Those who don't want to get involved in philosophical concerns the play raises can just sit back and enjoy the great costumes and perhaps the face of your seatmate who may look completely lost for the first half of the play.
Tip: Don't sit by the entrance or you'll faint from the restroom odor by the time the play ends. For more information, call 019-201-7234 (English available).
by Park Soo-mee