Choose Flying: “Wild Goose Dreams”

Jeffrey Song and Eunji Lim; Nile Scott Studios.

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company
Written by Hansol Jung
Directed by Seonjae Kim
Intimacy choreography by Yo-El Cassell 
Original compositions by Jeffrey Song
Featuring: Amanda Centeno, Ciaran D’Hondt, Fady Demian, John D. Haggerty, Elaine Hom, Eunji Lim, Ryan Mardesich, Jeffrey Song.

March 17 – April 8, 2023
Roberts Studio Theatre 
Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
527 Tremont Street
Boston, MA

Run time is estimated to be 1:40 without intermission.  

Critique by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — Wild Goose Dreams is a play with music by Hansol Jung and directed by Seonjae Kim. It is presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company and currently running at the Boston Center for the Arts. Audiences will encounter themes of loneliness, internet dependence, and censorship. 

Boston began its relationship with Wild Goose Dreams in May 2020 on Facebook Live during the Lockdown. Central Square Theater hosted a reading of Jung’s play with Underground Railway as part of its “Art is our Activism” series. Debra Wise directed a different cast (also led by Jeffrey Song!) that featured actor Michael Tow. Geek writer Diana Lu interviewed Tow after the reading for the blog. 

Shortly before the Lockdown, Company One performed Jung’s Wolf Play through February 2020 – just before lockdown began. Boston’s artists and audiences were ready for Jung’s work! History had other plans. 

At long last, SpeakEasy Stage Co brings Wild Goose Dreams, a play with musical vignettes, to Boston! (I bet it had some steep competition.) Wild Goose Dreams gets the New England premiere it deserves. We don’t have to wait any longer to see this play in person. 

Nanhee (Eunji Lim) is a North Korean defector who is successfully surviving but living alone in the large metro city of Seoul, South Korea. She turns to the internet and the cesspool of dating apps to escape loneliness and the weight of societal expectations. She meets Minsung (Jeffrey Song) an aging and equally as lonely businessman through an app. They start to chat online. 

Minsung is a gireogi appa or “goose father.” He works at home and sends money to the United States. His wife (Elaine Hom) and daughter Heejin (Amanda Centeno) live so Heejin can get an education. Minsung seldomly visits the US and craves kinship. Nanhee misses her father (John D. Haggerty) who is still in North Korea. The two find an accord that turns into love. 

Hansol Jung imagines the internet as an abstract, intangible but legitimate, real place with the power to harm and to heal in Wild Goose Dreams. Ensemble members Ciaran D’Hondt, Fady Demian, Elaine Hom, and Ryan Mardesich portray the worldwide interwebz agents of chaos. They might break into song at any moment, and they do. 

Designers Crystal Tiala (set), Kat C Zhou (lights), and George Cooke (sound) make the internet an interactive albeit disagreeable habitat for all comers (and goers). The set is dressed in neon colors that look to be advertisements at one glance and warnings against radioactive fallout at another. The soundscape is a cacophony of jingles and binary code from the ensemble and unnatural city noise that easily overwhelms the sounds nature warbles. 

Trapped between set pieces are eerie shadows that may hide cast members or nightmares. The internet is dark and full of horrors. Some of them live in Nanhee’s bathroom. 

From left: Ciaran D’Hondt, Fady Demian, Elaine Hom, Ryan Mardesich, Amanda Centeno, and John D. Haggerty. Nile Scott Studios.

The ensemble members exist as larger-than-life internet memes caricatures. Nanhee and Minsung are demure by contrast. These two humans are real, flesh and blood. An audience might expect the same largess of character from them as we do from the ensemble but we would be wrong. Normal are reserved in their day-to-day lives. 

Lim and Song deliver nuanced performances that are less strident than the ensembles’ but no less powerful. This parallels reality; the voice of a single person will get lost amongst the unfettered ramblings on the internet. 

And now, an interlude: It is super cool that director Seonjae Kim, a Seoul, South Korea native is also a graduate of Concord Academy. Kim served as the associate director for KPOP on Broadway. (OMGs the cast album is out on May 12!) KPOP received an infamous review that was racist as heck from the NYT. 

The cast and crew of KPOP wrote a letter to the NYT reasonably requesting an apology in response. The honorable, correct thing to do in such a situation is to listen to POC, thank them, and give a sincere apology. The NYT, in a deeply embarrassing moment for white journalists watching from home, doubled down and proclaimed their innocence from the internet’s rafters. We are cringe, but we are not free. 

History will show that the NYT writers were wrong, but, frankly, I can’t wait that long. They should know that they are wrong now. The dinguses at the New York Times were wrong. 

K-Pop is rad. Those musicians are disciplined. A catchy beat never did anyone wrong. 

Back to my point: I bring this up because I’m a white, queer critic living with a disability educated in the western European theatre tradition. I have a minimal understanding of the Asian diaspora. There are parts of Wild Goose Dreams that, to me, didn’t work, but I can’t tell if they didn’t work because the play has kinks, or if I don’t know enough about Asian culture. 

My biases are showing. This show, the crew, and the cast deserve an AAPI person critiquing it. They got me instead. 

I do know that my fellow white people and I won’t learn anything if we don’t expose ourselves to things we don’t understand and aren’t used to. I urge my fellow theatre enthusiasts to please see Wild Goose Dreams. There is a lot to appreciate from a western perspective and a lot to learn from a non-western perspective. We won’t get better as a world unless we learn from each other. Our alternative is Florida. 

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