Seoul Shakespeare Company will make an uncharacteristically modern return to the stage this weekend with the contemporary play “Garage,” a claustrophobic tale of past grudges.
The play starts as high school English teacher David returns to his hometown with his wife for the funeral of his estranged, alcoholic father.
While visiting his father’s emptied-out garage, they unexpectedly encounter Brandon, David’s childhood bully.
The scenario -- the whole play takes place in the garage -- makes for a foreboding atmosphere fueled by alcohol and past recriminations.
“Every time I watch it, I just think I would walk away from that situation. I wouldn’t want to be around. This is just people drinking and yelling at each other, but in the best possible way dramatically,” Downey said.
“This is a classic American Drama Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill style, small in scale but you believe that it’s real. It’s visceral in that sense I feel, you can really relate to the characters,” said director Michael Downey. “Over the period of a late afternoon through to the wee hours of the next day. It’s alcohol-soaked emotions laid bare.”
The play was first performed in New York in 2010. Downey had considered directing a production here for a couple of years after one of the writers, cast member Jason Cutler, showed him the script.
Lauren Ash-Morgan and Jason Cutler appear in Seoul Shakespeare Company’s production of “Garage” starting this weekend. (Robert Michael Evans)
“Just straight away I liked it because it had that classic feel,” said Downey.
“Classic scenario, small cast, very mobile in the sense that they did it for the New York Fringe originally, I think, so it was a very simple set, and the resources seemed to be pretty simple, which appeals to my aesthetic.”
The play also intentionally starts in a disorienting way in which the audience has to work to understand how the characters relate to each other.
“I like plays where I don’t know what is happening straight away or who’s who. You have to pay attention and work out what’s going on in these people‘s lives,” Downey explained.
The play is a departure from Seoul Shakespeare’s usual repertoire, which up until now has stuck to work by its namesake playwright. But the troupe has considered ways to keep things active outside of its yearly main productions.
Downey said this modern, small-scale play seemed a good option for maintaining strong drama without a big cast or demanding staging, but attention to detail has meant “Garage” was still an involved project.
“It’s been a way more intimate kind of low scale production, but the work that’s gone into it has been just as much as Shakespeare as it turns out,” Downey said.
He explained he was originally intending a quite raw, workshop style performance. “But because Lauren (Ash-Morgan) who is also in it, and is our artistic director, is also producing it, it’s now become more high caliber because she’s very, very good at making sure that everything is done really well, and we put a lot of effort into it and it looks really good.”
But the play still keeps to what Downey calls a “festival length” playing out without an intermission.
“Some stories just only need an hour to be told. This play sometimes feels like it could be longer, because there’s so much depth to the characters, but I think it’s just right,” said Downey.
“Garage” will be staged in English with Korean subtitles at Studio SK in Seoul’s Daehangno theater district. Performances are on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Oct. 15, 21 and 22 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Q&A sessions with the cast will be held after the 3 p.m. Sunday shows.
Tickets are 15,000 won. Visit www.seoulshakespearecompany.org
for reservations and more details.