American Hwangap

Magic Theatre's artistic director, Loretta Greco, is very keen to compare American Hwangap and its Korean-American playwright, Lloyd Suh, to Sam Shepard and his plays of severe family dysfunction set on the edges of the American desert. It's quite a stretch. The setup of a damaged family reunion is similar to Shepard's Buried Child, but Suh's work is much lighter fare. The Korean ritual of hwangap is the celebration of the completion of the 60-year zodiac cycle. In this case, it's the 60th birthday celebration and return ("a little weekend of apologies and fistfights") of an absent dad (Keone Young) who abandoned his family in Texas to return to Korea for some unknown reason. The three children and mother left behind are long into adulthood, but still scarred from the emotional wreckage of his selfish departure. The script and production feel unsatisfying when the bits of reconciliation occur. They are unearned both in writing and performance. The deserted mother (Jodi Long) seemingly forgives her deadbeat husband with a hug; one son, crippled by nervousness and still living in his mom's basement at 29, forgives with a brief fishing trip. Suh could be credibly compared to Shepard if he weren't so intent on family healing and happy endings.

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