You For Me For You is a title that accurately conveys the general theme within the play: the juxtapositions that result in a dizzying, even disorienting perception of time, space, and what it means to inhabit both dreams and reality. Sacrifice also plays a large role in the play; what we give up in the name of love and hope.
Sisters Minhee and Junhee live in North Korea, which is, of course, an incredibly oppressive and frightening place to live in. Citizens live their lives in fear and under constant surveillance, and after an altercation with a local doctor, Junhee decides to flee across the border. While the two attempt to escape, Minhee trips and falls down a well, where she is left behind. Junhee leaves for New York City, where she experiences what it means to be an American. After time passes and the two sisters discover truths about themselves, they are finally reunited, a happy affair that nonetheless has its own elements of sacrifice.
This play, written by Mia Chung and directed by Priscilla Lindsay, was the first Department of Theater and Drama production I have ever seen. I thought that the performers played their parts very well; they showed the audience a spectrum of emotions, ranging from humor to anguish. Without spoiling it, I thought that the end of the play was a very interesting one; sober, but also a stark contrast to the ideas of hope and risk-reward that were explored earlier in the play.
However, I was admittedly left quite confused by the play itself, though perhaps that disorientation was the point. Without spoiling the plot of the play, I will say that there were certain ideas that felt disconnected or unthreaded, and characters whom I was uncertain of it they were alive or dead. I was also confused about the giant walking teddy bear (???) and the actual fates and natures of Minhee’s husband and son. You For Me For You is advertised as being a play about magical-realism, and I thought that that was an interesting take on such a topic. There was definitely a discernible element of fantasy in the play; the problem for me, at least, was understanding where fantasy ended and reality began; this issue is only something I point out because it complicated my understanding of the plot, simply for logistical reasons.
Nonetheless, there were certain decisions in the play’s execution that I believe were exclusive to this production, though I cannot be sure. (Again, I am not very knowledgeable about the field of acting and theater). For one, the decision to give Minhee an accompanying voice actor to narrate her parts in the script was one that sparked a lot of interest. The voice actress sat at the edge of the stage; when Minhee ‘spoke,’ her lips moved silently. Her ‘voice’ came from the actress sitting in the corner. I found myself talking to the girl next to me about what she thought about this decision, and we actually had two very different opinions about the ideas behind the decision to not give Minhee ‘her own voice’ (her sister, Junhee, voiced her own parts.)
You For Me For You was a play that was enjoyable to watch, yes, but it also sparked a lot of ideas and topics for potential discussion for me. As we exited the theater, my fellow audience members were discussing possible interpretations of several of the more confusing scenes of the play. If you are ever able to view this production in the future, I would highly encourage it. I would also suggest watching with a group of friends, with whom you can discuss the ambiguous scenes and ideas with afterwards.
Image credits: Happening @ Michigan