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THEATER REVIEW No More Sad Things
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2015-11-25

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Playwright: Hansol Jung. At: Sideshow Theatre Company at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: 773-871-3000; www.victorygardens.org; $20-$30. Runs through: Dec. 20

Have you heard the story about the Akron spinster who finds romance while vacationing in Hawaii? Of course, you have! For more than three centuries, tropical islands in the Pacific have ranked in English literature alongside Italy and India as the preferred destination of unhappy white women looking to get their groove back. This isn't the story that Hansol Jung sets out to write, though.

A prologue introduces two dreamers whose oracles exhort them to seek their happiness in Maui, after which we witness native-born Kahekili propose marriage to visiting mainlander Jessica, who protests their short acquaintance, precipitating a linear account of the events leading to this life-changing moment. These include the prospective bride's flight from her invalid mother's bedside and the would-be groom's vow of abstinence after watching his father's career as a champion competitive-surfer destroyed by injuries arising from women and drink. Could their uncanny attraction to one another have something to do with Jessica's being 32 years old and Kahekili 15—exactly the age that her son would have been, had she not secured an abortion, despite the pleas of her future-astronomist high school boy friend?

Jung's efficiency at folding massive amounts of information into a brief 80 minutes of performance time is undeniable, though for full appreciation thereof, audiences would do well to listen closely. It helps to know the myth of Callisto and the stellar constellations of Ursa major and minor, for example, or the legend of the ancient Kahekili, whose modern-day namesake daily dives into the sea off a 50-foot cliff for the entertainment of hotel guests. The adventures of our restless pilgrims also encompass instruction on application of feminine hygiene products while wedged into an airline seat and the impracticality of making love on a lava-sand beach. More impressive, however, is the maturity reflected in Jung's rejection of happy-ever-after endings. For those haunted by too many "sad things," just the thought that someone once worried about you can be comfort enough.

Director Elly Green's expertise at delving the chemistry lying beneath the surface of a play's dramatic action enables Katy Carolina Collins and George Infantado—assisted by Narciso Lobo as a shape-shifting ukulele-strumming tourist "guidebook"—to conjure seductive magic from the most banal of colonialist fantasies. No matter how much cynics ( like me ) may want to sneer at the sheer sweetness of Jung's fable, ultimately, we can't help but be won over by her message of hope for lonely star-gazers in search of their place in the universe.


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