A new kind of theatrics on the Hill

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A new kind of theatrics on the Hill

People say the talent on Hooker Hill has been going, well, downhill lately. But this month has been different ― if you’ve gone there, you’ve quite likely seen a number of leading women.
That’s because, wonder of wonders, a local theater troupe for expats has been turning one of the hill’s moribund clubs, East-West, into a playhouse every weekend, holding shows most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The troupe is directed by an Irishman, Bernard Hughes, and features people from America, Canada, Britain and Ireland you’ve seen drinking next to you at local bars like Geckos. Each of the shows consists of three one-act plays.
The plays Mr. Hughes chose are entertaining and thought-provoking. The title of one, Arthur Miller’s “The Last Yankee,” seems particularly appropriate for Itaewon, now that the U.S. troops at the Yongsan base are about to pack their gear and go.
Still, you have to wonder where Mr. Hughes got the idea of bringing his theater to the hill.
“We just want to use places that make it easier for people to come and enjoy the plays,” Mr. Hughes said after last Sunday’s show, which brought in a comfortable crowd of about 35 people, about half the figure from the previous night. He would have preferred a place on Itaewon’s main street, he said, but when he got word that East-West would be available, he checked it out and decided it would work.
Mr. Hughes and his assistant director, the Montana-born Kirstie Bromenshenk, have done a fine job of transforming East-West into an intimate, congenial playhouse. Apart from the basics, like erecting the backdrop and setting up the lighting, the most crucial part in creating just the right atmosphere for the plays, Ms. Bromenshenk said, was taking down the club’s nudie posters.
Along with the Arthur Miller work, which is heavy on the drama, the troupe performs two offbeat comedies: “The Battle of Bull Run Always Makes Me Cry,” written by Carole Real, and “Naomi in the Living Room,” by Christopher Durang.
“Bull,” about a date between an eager gal and a dull guy, contains a bit of penetrating wisdom that seems Hooker Hill-apt: One character opines during a girl-talk session that “women think in-out... but men think out-in.”
“Naomi,” about a young man and wife on a visit to his loony mother, features Zena Putnam, a Canadian, in a scream of a performance that just might remind you of your last Itaewon girlfriend.
Go to East-West for one of the two remaining shows - Friday night at 10 or Saturday at 8:30. You’ll forget you’re in Itaewon and think you’re in a neighborhood theater somewhere, like in San Francisco’s North Beach. Until you leave, that is, and you have to fend off the aggressive bar girls as you descend the hill.
Of course, depending on how talented they are, you don’t have to fend them off.


by Mike Ferrin
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