Jill Weinlein, Chief Los Angeles Critic
Every family has a unique story to tell, and in “Hannah and the Dread Gazebo” it opens with Hannah’s grandmother (Jully Lee) jumping off the roof of the Sunrise Dewdrop Apartment City for Senior Living. Located on the border of North and South Korea, it’s close enough for the DMZ to shoot anyone within range. How’s that for an opening!
It’s a mystery about a wish written on a small piece of paper that grandmother places inside a small clear glass bottle. She mails it to Hannah before she jumps. The timing is lousy for Hannah (Monica Hong) living in New York, as she is just two weeks away from taking her board exams to hopefully become a pediatric neurologist.
Frantically calling her mother (Janet Song), Father (Hahn Cho) and brother Dang (Gavin Lee), now living in Seoul, to advocate for grandma suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease, Hannah desperately inquires why grandma would send such a thing. Her family keep the news about grandma's demise a secret to protect Hannah and have her focus on her studies.
Hannah can’t think about anything except the welfare of her family, and flies to Seoul to solve the mystery.
Scenic and video designer Yee Eun Nam takes the audience to the streets of Seoul, riding a subway, and near the DMZ.
Mom is depressed about the loss of her mother, as well as missing her home and daughter in the United States. She longs for a home with curb appeal that will make people “green with envy.” A lattice she found in Seoul cheers her up as she displays it inside the bleak and dreary apartment. She wants to grow something alive on this wooden wall. Next she wants to purchase a gazebo from Amish Country to set up on the roof.
Father focuses on visiting the DMZ to request permission to retrieve grandmother’s body, since she fell on the North Korea side of the border.
Once Hannah arrives, the line “For the first time in 20 years, we are all home in Seoul,” alerts the audience to how Americanized the family has become, especially Dang. As an American youth wearing a DOPE baseball cap, he feels like an outsider in his birth country. Set during winter of 2011, just before the death of Kim Jong II, to Dang the city of Seoul is an "ocean of shiny black hair Asian people.” He never really got to know his grandmother, other than the one and only time he met her on his first birthday and peed on her.
Gavin Lee is funny and has a likable quality about him on stage. I predict we will continue to see him starring in future shows. His monologue about a mythical bear and tiger staying in a cave for 100 days, while surviving on garlic is very entertaining. He has good chemistry with a young and attractive female activist (Wonjung Kim) he meets in the subway. Kim is also very entertaining and charismatic.
What I also liked about the show was the magical realism of this play. Thanks to magic consultant Dominik Krzanowski, pieces of paper ignite into flames and props just disappear.
My favorite part of the show was after the final bow. Director Jennifer Chang has the cast perform “A Sweet Potato Woman” to bright lights and music. Dancing standouts include Hahn Cho and Gavin Lee.
HANNAH AND THE DREAD GAZEBO
Written by Jiehae Park
Directed by Jennifer Chang
Starring Hahn Cho, Monica Hong, Wonjung Kim, Gavin Lee, Jully Lee, Janet Song
Produced by The Fountain Theatre in association with East West Players
Box Office contact & hours
Monday-Wednesday 11 - 6pm
Thursday-Saturday 11 - 9pm
Sunday 11 - 5pm or until showtime on performance days.
Showtimes are 8 p.m., Monday, and Wednesday through Friday; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday. Tickets start at $25.
5060 Fountain Ave. (323)663-1525, fountaintheatre.com.
Show length is approximately 100 minutes, with no intermission.