I went to see my friend Mi-hyun in this play today. I was supposed t be joined by The Stumbler, but he stumbled and fell ill, so I went alone. The theatre was easy to find, near Exit 4 of Hyehwa station, in the basement of this building:
A small space, capacity around 100 or a bit more, it was 90% full. To see The Canterbury Tales presented in English. Of course, not all of them, since there's 20 or so, which would make for about a six or seven hour evening. They chose three of the more famous ones. I would really have liked to see two more, since they were quite enjoyable.
In The Wife of Bath's Tale, a knight rapes a woman and faces death for his crime. The Queen gives him a second chance--if he can learn what women really want he will be spared. Finally, an old hag tells him what women want on condition he marry her--they desire most to have sovereignty over their husbands.
The second tale was that of The Pardoner, who tells of three "riotous" friends who find a treasure and attempt to double-cross each other in their greed. The last pic is Mi-hyun (face obscured in the first shot, sorry) being stabbed before his partners in crime unknowingly drink the poison he obtained from the apothecary.
Last was The Merchant's Tale, in which an elderly knight takes a very young wife, who is secretly loved by his attendant. The old man's sight fails him, and May meets Damian the page in the garden for some hanky-panky. One of the garden's faeries is not happy with this turn of events and restores the old man's sight. All ends well for May, as she convinces her husband that his renewed sight was faulty at first, and he didn't see what he thought he saw.
Little-known fact: Tuttle has a BFA in Theatre Acting/Directing. So you can have a little bit of faith in my opinions on this topic. This was a solid production. Some of the actors had occasional difficulty with pronunciation or articulation, and annoyingly (if understandably), this was most prone to happen during key moments. However, they showed a strong grasp of meaning and communicated it well to the audience. All the performers played with gusto.
All the actors developed their characters, found good traits to demonstrate them, and even had nuanced performances to the extent broad comedy like Chaucer permits. It was played for laughs, and got them from their appreciative audience. Not to brag on my friend, but Mi-hyun was definitely the stand-out performer!
They were helped by adroit lighting, staging and direction. With a one-level unit set, you make use of a few bits of furniture and some set dressing: a table, some mugs and a barmaid make it a pub, a couple of small trees make it a garden. The staging was done effectively, particularly in dealing with the problem of levels. Audience interest is heightened by visuals that are high and low, so the director never missed a chance to have someone standing, someone seated, someone kneeling or lying prone--and always well-motivated.
My main complaint, mentioned earlier, is that with three tales coming in at just over one hour, it was too short--I could definitely have sat through two or three more tales. Some of the bawdier ones were chosen, and done well, but The Miller's Tale would have made an excellent fourth piece.
I'm not sure exactly who the sponsoring organization was for this production, but I would encourage them to do more. Sorry if you missed it, the final performance was at 6 PM tonight.