REVIEW: "Wild Goose Dreams" at La Jolla Playhouse

La Jolla Playhouse's Newest Production

"Wild Goose Dreams" at La Jolla Playhouse

Photos by Jim Carmody

There comes a time in every parent's life when their children are ready to go out into the world alone. There, they face a choice: do they stay home or fly away and never return? Should they spread their wings or stay safely on the ground?

Separation from home is a central theme to La Jolla Playhouse's newest production, Wild Goose Dreams. The play tells the story of North Korean defector Yoo Nanhee (Yunjin Kim), a lonely, and quiet girl who has lived on her own in Seoul since escaping North Korea four years prior. When the Love Genie matchmaking website sends her a free online trial, Nanhee meets Gook Minsung (James Kyson), a self-proclaimed "Goose Father," so called because he let his wife and daughter "migrate" to America to benefit his daughter's education. Alone and sending the majority of his paycheck to his family overseas, Minsung quickly strikes up on affair with Nanhee. But Nanhee can't let go of her father (Francis Jue), whom she left behind in North Korea. Overrun with nightmares and fear for her father's safety, Nanhee struggles to fully commit to her new life.

La Jolla Playhouse Yunjin Kim

I don't know whether to classify Wild Goose Dreams as a love story, a drama, or a surreal tale of identity. Certainly a case can be made for all three––as the relationship between Minsung and Nanhee develops, so to do Nanhee's misgivings about her new life and Minsung's struggles to find out who he is without his family. With lighthearted, innocent humor and horrifying dream sequences, Wild Goose Dreams straddles the line of a fun, dating romp and a dark look at the trauma of leaving your loved ones behind––or being left behind. Written by Hansol Jung, this entertaining and original new play pulls on the importance of family and the need for intimate connection to live a full life, from the tech-steeped beginning to the melancholy end. Leads Yunjin Kim and James Kyson take the audience on an emotional journey as their relationship begins, develops, and evolves. 

Wild Goose Dreams is directed by Leigh Silverman and makes amusing use of the chorus performers (which includes Carolyn Agan, Julian Cihi, DeLeon Dallas, Rona Figueroa, Kyle Hester, Kimberly Monks, and Samantha Wang), who become the inner-workings of the internet. Playing Facebook, matchmaking websites, and the various headlines that catch the modern eye, the chorus brings laughs and more to an otherwise dark production.

The play utilizes original music (composed by Paul Castles and Jongbin Jung), including two, sometimes silly, sometimes heartbreaking songs performed live by James Kyson. Costumes for this production were designed by Linda Cho, while the set (which features a pool of water surrounding the stage) was designed by Wilson Chin. The lighting, which frequently flashes red in the more surreal moments of the show, was produced by Keith Parham, while the intense sound effects were done by Joanna Lynne Staub.

Wild Goose Dreams runs at the La Jolla Playhouse's Mandell Weiss Forum through October 1st. Tickets range from $35–$60 each. You can purchase tickets for this fun show at La Jolla Playhouse's wesbite.

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