A promotional image for Theater Mu/Park Square Theatre’s co-production of The Korean Drama Addict’s Guide to Losing Your Virginity.
If you’ve traveled to Los Angeles or Hawaii a lot, chances are that you’ll have heard of or seen Korean television dramas (K-dramas). An international entertainment phenomenon, these television staples have a way of heightening drama that makes American soap operas seem positively tame sometimes. None of this is necessary to enjoy Theater Mu and Park Square Theatre’s co-production of The Korean Drama Addict’s Guide to Losing Your Virginity, but you’ll get a lot more jokes and references if you do.
My own introduction to K-dramas came here in the Twin Cities, when a Hmong friend was watching Dramaworld, a sort of meta show in which a person finds themselves transported into the stylized world of a K-drama. That wonderful show doesn’t take very long to get you oriented, and The Korean Drama Addict’s Guide is much the same – a few minutes in, you’ll be recognizing moments where the script plays with the genre’s tropes and stereotypes. From there it’s a fun and wild ride with some serious bits at the core.
The central character of this play is the K-drama-obsessed Gao Hlee (Dexieng Yang), a Hmong-American woman in the Midwest who also happens to be a virgin and very concerned with changing that. With all the speed that you might expect from a television drama-riffing play, she meets Benedict (Brian Kim), the scion of a large Korean company who comes to the United States for personality coaching with Hlee. The script by May Lee-Yang is clever and pleasantly indulging, with moments like slow-motion running that recall all the cinematic tricks in the genre. It’s also extra interesting to someone who’s grown up in the Twin Cities and is part of (or has friends in) the Hmong community, with its exploration of the particular nuances of this type of interracial dating.
Joining the narrative are Gao Hlee’s mom (Phasoua Vang), her best friend Z (Khadija Siddiqui), Benedict’s Secretary Kim (Clay Man Soo), and Benedict’s force-of-nature mother (Katie Bradley). It’s an entertaining mix, with great stoic acting and comic timing as appropriate. The costumes by Samantha Fromm Haddow add a great deal to this show and its many K-drama-evocative moments.
The Korean Drama Addict’s Guide to Losing Your Virginity plays through August 19 at Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Stage in St. Paul, MN.