Family conflicts burn bright on a ‘Spring Day’
In most Korean households, the father is still the central figure around which the family revolves, even if the younger generation is beginning to resist this structure.
The complexity and conflict of a family in transition is the underlying theme of the play “Spring Day,” which is presented by Baeksukwangbu Theater Company and opens at Daehangno Arts Center on March 31 and runs through April 17.
The play follows a widowed father and his seven sons as they struggle to make a living as farmers. Even though the father and sons work side by side to cultivate their paddy fields, the father believes he should control the family earnings, simply because he is the head of the household. The oldest son, who acts as the mother figure in the family, looks after his elderly father and raises his six siblings.
But as this continues, the tension builds, only to erupt one spring day when a forest fire breaks out on a nearby mountain. As the fire burns, the five middle sons express their rage and ask their father for their fair share of the earnings. When the father refuses, the sons trick their father into plastering his eyes with resin, telling him it will be good for his skin. After he is temporarily blinded, the sons run away with cash from the family-savings jar.
Meanwhile, the fire on the mountain has forced a group of monks who were living there to escape the blaze. With them is a little girl who had been under their care. As they leave the mountain, they drop the girl off with the family and ask them to take care of her. The family agrees, but it is not long before the youngest son falls madly in love with the girl, even though the father seems to want her for himself. As spring passes, the father reflects on his actions and the family he has lost.
Written by Lee Gang-baek, “Spring Day” premiered in 1984 and has been revived many times since. In its original incarnation, the play used the struggle within the family as a metaphor for the conflict between society and the government during the authoritarian 1980s.
This version focuses more on the generation gap between the father and his sons to express the shift from a filial patriarchal system to a society that values individualism.Yi Seong-yeol, who directed the play this time and in 2009, uses the image of the mountain to symbolize the family turmoil. Aside from this, however, most of the action takes place in a minimal setting designed to give the audience space to contemplate the action. “The performance is very poetic and compelling,” the press release from Baeksukwangbu said. “Watching the show is similar to appreciating a painting of a peaceful landscape.”
*The play opens March 31 and runs through April 17 at Daehangno Arts Center. Performances are at 8 p.m. from Tuesdays to Fridays, at 3 and 7 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 4 p.m. on Sundays. There is no performance on Mondays. Go to Hyehwa Station, line No. 4, exit 1. Tickets range from 20,000 won ($17.60) to 50,000 won. For details, call (02) 814-1678, or visit http://baeksukwangbu.cyworld.com.
By Lee Sun-min [email@example.com]