nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
October 6, 2007
Like a Wile E. Coyote cartoon, Jump, the Korean performance extravaganza, gives the illusion of continual, raucous aggression, but in this case you will be laughing, or at least highly amused, for 90 minutes. It is a combination of gymnastic exhibition, martial arts demonstration, folkloric storytelling, mime, and slapstick humor. And it is done with the art, skill, and discipline of award-winning athletes, which many of the cast are. In short, this is entertainment.
Jump opens in the home of a Korean family in which three generations of martial artists live together under the stern eye of a grandfather. Simply put, Father, Mother, Uncle, Daughter, and Son-in-Law break into combat with little provocation. They cannot help themselves. Ultimately, they unite to fight two burglars.
The story is incidental. It is there to define the characters and serves as a pretext for ample humor and fantastic athletic dexterity. Performed without words, Jump is anything but quiet. Filled with the shouts of actors before each attack, rhythmic music (both loud and softly melodic), and clever sound effects, the evening delivers an acrobatic rumble of one-up-manship mixed with the antics of The Three Stooges. A speeding train would have difficulty keeping up with the momentum on stage.
Director Chul-Ki Choi brings together athletic agility, timing, marvelous sound effects, and humor in a seemingly chaotic but superbly well-planned ensemble piece. The use of slow motion during several fight scenes is hilarious, and gives relief to an overall fevered pitch. The eye of Won-Kil Paek, comedy director, is sharp indeed, building comedic moments with both bold and nuanced parts—usually unexpected and always funny—but always allowing the actors to strut their stuff. Martial arts choreographer Gye-Whan Park and choreographer Young-Sub Jin exhibit their craft in Jump. With eight people on stage in various stages of leaps, falls, thrusts, and entanglements, they have both managed to create beautiful and creative movement.
Sang-Cheul Lee plays the authoritative Grandfather splendidly, while Cheol-Ho Lim and Hyun-Ju Kim as the Father and Mother, respectively, show how to change a mood in a nanosecond. Young–Jo Choi stands out in the comedic role of the degenerate Uncle, and Hee-Jeong Hwang plays the demure Daughter, who appears to be able to twist her body in ways not intended by nature. Byung-Eun Yoo brings an awkward shyness in the role of the prospective son-in-law that he transforms Clark Kent-style into a sexy seducer. The two burglars are ably performed by Yun-Gab Hong and Seung-Youl Lee. There is also an Old Man, Woon-Young Lee, who mingles with and entertains the audience before curtain time. He proves his athletic mettle along the way. Occasional audience participation sent me into a mild panic for fear of being chosen, but the rest of the audience seemed to take it in stride and appeared to actually enjoy it.
The simple, elegant sets by Tae-Young Kim, contribute nicely. Vertical concave panels match the calm, geometric screens along the back. The panels, which border the front of the stage and serve as parenthesis to a traditional Korean living room, allow the actors additional freedom, beyond the already spacious stage, to run up the walls and flip back into the room. Loose, effective costumes were designed by Dolsilnai, Inc. Special lighting effects are, at times, dazzling, with original lighting created by Sung-Bin Lim and New York lighting designed by Benjamin Pearcy. Soo-Yong Lee was responsible for sound and the detailed, comedic sound effects, while Dong-Joon Lee contributed music composition.
Jump is fresh and it is fun and it is entertaining. It is perfect family fare, although it is not necessary to drum up a child in order to enjoy it. Just go.