Boston’s SpeakEasy Stage opened “Wild Goose Dreams” (2014), a comedy written by Hansol Jung, on Friday, March 17. Running through April 8, this production follows the love story of two lonely people in Seoul.
Minsung (Jeffery Song) is a “goose father,” working in Seoul while his family lives in the United States so that his daughter can receive a good education. Having been separated from his family for seven years, he feels himself growing apart from his wife and daughter as their lives diverge with the distance.
Meanwhile, Nanhee (Eunji Lim) is a North Korean defector who has been living alone in Seoul for the past 4 years. When a friend recommends a broker who can help her communicate with her relatives in North Korea, she sends a phone and money to her family. After she speaks with her father for the first time in years, she is ridden with guilt about her disappearance — the feeling manifests in the appearance of penguins throughout the performance.
This play is inherently about the connections made through the internet. Minsung and Nanhee communicate with their families exclusively through the internet but also meet each other through an online dating service. Their online personas are characters themselves and display the playful interactions the characters have online compared to their awkward, in-person selves.
As the COVID-19 pandemic shifted much of our world online, audiences are intimately familiar with the challenges of staying connected to friends and family exclusively through the internet. The themes have become universal with time.
Returning close to home, director Seonjae Kim is the daughter of a goose father. Kim attended Concord Academy and was inspired by her high school theater teacher, who directed with SpeakEasy Stage during her high school years.
As is the challenge with many shows about the internet, the production nods to the flirty, secretive, awkward and genuine relationships that are developed and maintained digitally. Relatively self aware, this performance balances the intense moments of a daughter’s guilt and a father’s sadness with moments of absurdity in Nanhee’s dreams and in how Minsung acts online.
Crystal Tiala’s minimalist set reflects the neon glow of Seoul and pays homage to the Korean artist Do Ho Suh’s 2017 installation “Passage/s.” The series of semi-opaque fabric structures formed hallways and rooms and were rearranged into apartments, stages and bridges looking out on the city.
In a talkback with the audience on March 26, actors shared what they wanted people to take away from their performance.Eunji Lim, who plays Nanhee and is originally from Seoul,delved into her experience portraying a North Korean character. Referencing the research she conducted by watching tapes of North Korean defectors, she shared that this story is about North Korea as an entity and presents a North Korean woman’s journey with love and compassion.Elaine Hom, who plays Minsung’s wife and is a member of the chorus, discussed the difference between freedom and independence.
Still, most potent in this production is its technological commentary. While technology builds love and connection, it also delicately holds these families together. In that deeper discussion, the comedy finds its meaning.