Despite the fact that the Twin Cities Theater scene is being devoured by countless of new and upcoming works through the annual Fringe festival, I took the time to stop by Theater Mu to see their new work. This was also my first time seeing a show at Theater Mu and it was a delightful experience. This new play titled The Korean Drama Addict's Guide to Losing Your Virginity has made it's world premiere after two years of work, as mentioned by the Artistic Director. It's by May Lee-Yang, a local playwright who resides in St. Paul. Her work often explores the lives of Hmong women and living in a bicultural world. She has certainly made a name for herself as TC Metro Magazine even declared that she was "on her way to becoming one of the most powerful and colorful voices in local theater."
The Korean Drama Addict's Guide to Losing Your Virginity takes place in the Twin Cities and is about Gao Hlee. Gao is a 29-year-old Hmong woman who takes pride in her work as a personality coach by day and by night is addicted to Korean Dramas, which are sorta like Korean Soap Operas. One day she gets assigned to a new client who is the heir to a Korean manufacturing giant who has been banished to their Midwest office. While his personality really does need some work, she slowly begins to see a different side of him. However, as her 30th birthday slowly approaches, Gao must find someone to lose her virginity too or else something terrible will happen.
Before the show started, the Artistic Director spoke to the audience about the importance of Theater Mu and how this show has been almost two years in the making. It was exciting to know that this was a premiere of a brand new work of art by not only a local playwright but a female local playwright. I believe the writing could have taken another round of edits or maybe another reading in front of an audience. The story itself is a bit convoluted and lacked to expose important plot lines earlier in the show. While the audience was kept in suspense and in the dark for a fairly large amount of the show it felt too long (at over 2.5 hours with intermission) and lost my interest instead of getting me excited.
The show itself was heavy in Korean and Hmong cultural references that I personally didn't understand and there is nothing wrong with that. Maybe it wasn't written for me, however, it did make the show a bit harder to watch due to my lack of background knowledge on the cultural. My guest who attended the show with me, and who has seen many Korean Dramas, couldn't stop laughing at many of the references.
The acting itself was entertaining. Dexieng Yang is delightfully likable and witty as Gao Hlee. Brian Kim plays the stuck-up heir and plays the part well including a surprising karaoke moment with a stunning voice (can someone cast him in a musical soon please?). Katie Bradley plays Benedict's mom and his a fierce boss, despite the character being a horrible person. Bradley plays this role with a lot of gut and rooted in realism which makes her all the more fun to watch.
The set is simple and utilizes a beautiful backdrop with a thrust stage style of seating. The seta included a large amount of rolled on set pieces that quickly created different scenes around the Twin Cities from Gao's bedroom, to an office, a nightclub and even her car. Unfortunately, I felt that I had a lot of the actors playing their backs to me as I sat on the house right side.
The Korean Drama Addict's Guide to Losing Your Virginity by Theater Mu plays at Park Square Theatre through August 19.
*Update: The show is currently sold out. You may be able to rush seats if some don't show up.