Sunday, September 11, 2016

Aubergine *** B

Julia Cho’s new play at Playwrights Horizons is a flawed, uneven work, but it packs an emotional wallop. Ray (Tim Kang), an assimilated Korean-American chef, moves in with his estranged father (Stephen Park) to care for him during his final days. Ray’s former girlfriend Cornelia (Sue Jean Kim) forgives him and pitches in to help. Lucien (Michael Potts), a refugee from a war-torn African country, is the kindly, helpful home hospice nurse. Ray’s uncle (Joseph Steven Yang) flies in from Korea as soon as hears about his brother’s condition. Diane (Jessica Love) is a wealthy foodie who appears in the opening and final scenes (and, in my humble opinion, should be excised). A common thread that stitches the play together is the important role of food in our memories and family relationships. Each character gets a food-centered monologue. Some of the dialog is in Korean with translations projected on the rear wall. There are many engaging moments, but they don’t fit together all that well. Some trimming would improve the play, especially dropping the facile ending. Derek McLane’s high-concept scenic design is dominated by a huge semicircular wooden wall that looks like the side of a huge vat. It parts and swings away to reveal a semicircular interior with partial concentric rings. The circle of life, perhaps? Jennifer Moeller’s costumes are appropriate to each character. Kate Whoriskey’s direction is a bit sluggish at times. Don’t see it when you are hungry. You also might want to avoid it you have recently faced or are about to face the loss of a loved one. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes including intermission.

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