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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

You for Me for You

Also see Susan's review of My Fair Lady

You for Me for You, the current production at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, is often cryptic and never really comes together, despite a few sharply focused moments. Playwright Mia Chung uses fantasy and dream logic in her story about two North Korean sisters trying to survive, but as a whole it remains unsatisfying and difficult to grasp.

Junhee (Ruibo Qian) and Minjee (Jo Mei) are sisters living in rural North Korea, trying to stay alive despite a famine that has killed the rest of their family. The drama begins promisingly with a scene where each woman attempts to give her share of food (a combined quantity of rice that wouldn't feed a child) to the other: Elisheba Ittoop's sound design heightens the scene by amplifying the individual sounds of a teapot clinking against a cup and chopsticks scraping a bowl.

Minjee is ill—the basis of a broad scene with Francis Jue as an unctuous government doctor—and Junhee becomes convinced that escaping from the country is the only way to save her sister's life. She finds a smuggler (Jue again) to take them across the border, but Minjee is unable to make the trip. Junhee finds herself in a fragmented vision of the U.S., whose residents are exemplified by Kimberly Gilbert as a self-absorbed woman who never stops talking on her cell phone.

Is the playwright trying to create an equivalence between the poverty and isolation of North Korea and the unthinking privilege of the U.S.? The audience sees Junhee trying to make her way in New York City, faced with a choice of glamorous but impractical shoes and a dizzying array of mobile phones, but the ultimate meaning remains murky. Similarly, Junhee's romance with a kindly Southerner (Matthew Dewberry) remains vaguely drawn, and there is no sense of the supposed preternatural connection between the sisters.

Director Yury Urnov takes a heavy-handed approach to the drama, focusing on concrete items (such as those shoes and cell phones) rather than digging beneath the surface of the characters.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
You for Me for You
November 5th - December 2nd
By Mia Chung
Junhee: Ruibo Qian
Minjee: Jo Mei
Tiffany: Kimberly Gilbert
The Doctor/Smuggler: Francis Jue
The Man from the South: Matthew Dewberry
Puppeteer: Francis Cabatac
Directed by Yury Urnov
641 D St. N.W., Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-393-3939 or www.woollymammoth.net


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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