EXCERPTS FROM THE REVIEW
Below are excerpts from the February 16, 2018 Washington City Paper review of Aubergine.
AUBERGINE IS A RICH PLAY ABOUT FOOD MEMORY, AND KOREAN IMMIGRANTS
American reactions to plays about cross-cultural relations are also crucial to the success of Aubergine, a richly layered play about food, memory, and immigrant families co-produced by Olney Theatre Center and Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre.
Julia Cho’s play about first and second generation Korean immigrants enjoyed a successful 2016 run off-Broadway, and is exactly the sort of work theaters in the D.C. suburbs should stage, provided they do some savvy marketing and get parishioners at the Korean churches just down the road to congregate at a theater.
That’s not to say only Asian-Americans will appreciate Cho’s play, which hits hard on universal themes like loving your family members even when the feelings don’t seem to be reciprocal. (A tip of the hat to Korean-American City Paper contributor Mike Paarlberg for explaining that the characters in Aubergine own multiple refrigerators because at least one is storing stinky kimchi, and illuminating a few other cultural details that not all patrons will appreciate.)
Everyman’s Vincent M. Lancisi directs a solid quartet of Asian actors led by Tony Namas Ray, a 38-year-old chef who becomes so defeated once his father enters hospice care that he starts subsisting on beer and Ensure.
It’s too late for Ray and his father to reconcile, but there is plenty of time for our protagonist to move forward in life with a higher capacity for empathy. Anyone who has ever felt unable to meet high parental expectations will relate, and perhaps wonder if family skeletons are driving Mom and Dad’s desire for their children to do differently or do better.
The title Aubergine references the French word for eggplant. When a Francophone immigrant hospice nurse played by Jefferson A. Russell starts reminiscing about his favorite vegetable back home, he opines, “[An eggplant] sounds like an ugly, milky white, sickly thing. But ‘aubergine,’ ahh. That starts to approach the beauty of the thing itself.”
It’s all a matter of perspective. Not every American family has four refrigerators, but nearly all have a recipe that takes an ordinary food, prepares it with love, and makes eating a revelatory communal experience.