My favorite performance of the entire festival was Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company’s Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven. It was brilliantly written and accomplished what many plays cannot. It made the audience laugh, cry, question, wonder, and walk away with better insight on two different cultures. From the first moments of the play it was already in my opinion an original masterpiece. The first ten violent minutes of the sounds and visions of a woman being smacked in the face were very disturbing and powerful. It was almost like the footage was a wake up call for the audience to pay close attention to the performance and the messages about the myths and truths of both Korean and American cultures.
Once the violent film came to an end and the audience’s uneasiness subsided came the more lighthearted but still powerful rest of the play. Young Jean Lee told two stories about two unique cultures on the stage. One being based around a Korean-American woman (played by the talented Becky Yamamoto) who throughout the performance ranted about Korean stereotypes, white people’s superficial ideas on racism, and how all we have is vanity. Along with the help of three traditional Korean women their story was wildly entertaining, hilarious, and shocking. From the suicide attempts during “All I Want For Christmas,” or the Anti-Jesus Bible Study every colorful scene was great.
The second storyline involved a white couple dressed in hideous neutral colored clothing having problems with their relationship. Jean Lee’s portrayal of the typical self-absorbed Caucasian couple was right on and fulfilled the ridiculous but usually truthful stereotypes of our culture. The domineering woman tarnishing her boyfriend’s sub par intelligence, and wanting to go to Africa for the banana trees was ingenious. Every time the Korean based characters would discuss the problems and narcissism of our white culture the next scene involving the feuding couple would creatively fit the discussed clichés.
Songs of the Dragon Flying to Heaven was one of the most inventive and thought provoking plays I have had the privilege to see. All the performances were outstanding and did complete justice for the brilliant writing and directing by Young Jean Lee. It allowed us in the audience a chance to view hilarious stereotypes and traditions that take place in both Korean and American cultures and the numerous similarities and differences they both have.
Posted by: James Maxwell