Gwangju Performance Project will be putting on Christopher Durang’s “Why Torture is Wrong and the People who Love Them” on Oct. 19-20.
Durang has a history of writing controversial works, according to producer Travis Major, and this black comedy explores some of the darkest areas of society, including nationalism, terrorism and gun violence.
“The play challenges the audience because it forces you to do two things at once,” said Major. “It forces you to laugh at the jokes but also think about how horrible some of the problems being talked about in the play are.”
Despite the dark side to the play, Major said that it was not a typical “edgy” exploitation of dark humor, but was really about seeing the good in people.
“The world is really bleak sometimes, not just on the news and on the big scale but also in the people that you meet every day. It can feel like everybody is just monstrous,” explained Major.
“And the characters in the play certainly seem monstrous, but ultimately it’s about loving people anyway, even though they can be monstrous sometimes.”
Some risk has been mitigated, Major accepted, by using a successful script by an award-winning playwright, as opposed to original material. This was not just in terms of the humor but also in the play as a whole.
“You have to have some faith in the playwright because on paper it is a totally different thing. You can only guess at what the product is going to be like, especially the emotional side of it ― how the audience is going to feel about what the characters are feeling,” he said.
“That doesn’t sort of grow until the end part, until the last stage of the rehearsal when the character work really gets down. Whether it’s a good play or a bad play, I find that to be true.”
He said this effect was magnified by the nature of the casting. As there are not many actors to choose from, and many have little experience, the parts have to be cast according to what the actors can do.
“You sort of can’t expect a certain thing from someone who has never acted before. The range of acting is going to be very limited, and so the character has to become whatever they can do,” he said.
As for the material itself, Major hopes that the audience enters with an open mind.
“Be prepared to laugh at things that you would normally be upset about,” he said.
Performances are on Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 20 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Gongyeon Ilbeonji, near Geumnamno 4-ga Station. Tickets are 8,000 won and can be ordered via www.gwangjutheatre.com.
By Paul Kerry (firstname.lastname@example.org)