A Review of the stage play adaptation of “Attic Cat”

Hello. This is Prof. AKIA with something new. I recently went to see the Stage Play of the 2003 Korean drama classic “Attic Cat /옥탑방 고양이.” Anyone remember that Korean drama? Many of the newer fans may not be familiar with the classic show. It has been a long time since I watched the show but it goes something like this.

Jung Da-Bin stars as the girl who moves out of her parents’ house to be a writer in Seoul. She ends up renting a room on top of the building. Because of plot shenanigans, the guy played by Kim Rae-Won also rents the same room. And the show is off to the races.

What happened to Jung Da-Bin? Oops googled it and I should not have.
It says that she committed suicide in 2007.

The Play
Leaving that sad news aside, the show, which was a novel first, was adapted for the stage in 2010. It is what Americans would consider an off-off Broadway show with only 4 cast members and a single setting. The roof top.

Well… it is technically two since there is the inside the room on the rooftop and the rest of the rooftop outside of the room. These settings are transitioned through swinging walls that open to show the insides of the room. It is neat!

Among the 4 cast members, two play the girl and guy. The other two play cats and all other minor characters. Yes I said cats as in the cats in the play “Cats” with detachable tails. And these cats can talk… well they can talk between themselves and to the audience. The other cast members just view them as standard normal cats.

The play “Attic Cat /옥탑방 고양이” is playing on 대학로 which can be roughly translated to University avenue for the last 5 years. 대학로is a popular area for the younger folk and houses a lot of theatres. The play is a hit for those standards and has never closed since its debut until now. Considering that my 8PM viewing on a weekday was packed, I do not see it shutting down soon.

Is it a good Adaptation?
The question here is how to turn a 20 episode Korean drama into a 110 minute stage play. In the case of this play, the answer would be not really be an adaptation. Not much of the show is actually in the play. In terms of the story, it is like the stage play is based on a 5 item bullet point power point slide of the Korean drama. There is barely any plot in the play and even the plot that exists is rather awkwardly skewed towards the back. The plot just more or less exists as a framework to organize comedy sketches and nothing more.

Contrary to its setup, the Korean drama was more of a drama than a comedy. The stage play on the other hand, is a through and through comedy with a mix of screwball and slapstick comedy. And I mean it is a comedy. There were no talking cats constantly breaking the 4th wall in the original Korean drama after all.

In the play, the cats do not really have any story function. Rather they are there to talk to the audience and amp them up in addition to providing comedic relief between scenes with the two male and female leads. They provide some narrative functions but barely. And these cats are the best part of the play. The leads just do your standard rom-com meet-cute followed by standard screwball comedy then awkward sexual tension. The rest is what you expect except for the feeling very awkward part.

Is it any good?
It depends…

There is no reason to watch this play for the story. The plot is not only cliché and thin but, since most of the 110 minutes spent on comedy sketches, the character development feels very rushed and awkward for the most part.

Oh did I mention that this play is about 110 minutes with no intermission?
In addition, the seating is very uncomfortable.

The real reason you go see this play is for the comedy. If the audience’s reactions were any indication, the play seems to have succeeded in this aspect.

One thing I have to mention is that the comedy here is very Korean with its lowbrow and laud old fashion market place traveling minstrel show sensibilities. If you watch Korean sketch comedy programs, you may get a sense of what I am saying. The problem I had is that I do not get this type of comedy. I never have gotten it. Even as a kid, I was the only one who was puzzled by Korean comedy. So, there was not much for me in the play. I didn’t laugh at 90% of the jokes. The rest just got a smirk out of me because it was well performed.

You have to give dues where dues are warranted after all!

In general, I think the performances were good with the actors playing the cats stealing the show. The lead couple were not bad but I think they didn’t have much chemistry which hurt the play somewhat.

Looking through what kinds of plays are available here in Korea, a lot of the off-off Broadway shows tend to be adaptations of either Korean dramas or movies. I am not sure if “Attic Cat /옥탑방 고양이” is the typical examples of these shows but, just from a glance, there is a lot of comedies.

These Korean off-off Broadway shows may not be my cup of tea…

While the play “Attic Cat /옥탑방 고양이” was not a great experience, I think it was not a waste. It was interesting to see Korean actors on stage. And no; they were no one you would recognize. As a side note, Korean stage plays tend to have at least 3 actors sharing the same role equally rather than the main actor and understudy dynamic in Broadway.

I was seated in the first row and could see the pores on the actors’ faces. That was nice. Also I only paid $12 which made the experience far less painful. So, not too many complaints other than the seating was very uncomfortable and the show really needed an intermission. In terms of the quality of the play itself, I do not think the play on paper has much merit. There is nothing really there. It is more about the actors’ comedic delivery.  For my theatre outing, the actors were good.

That is it!

Thanks for reading this stage play review. SHARE  via social Media!!!!!!!!!This was Prof. AKIA.

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Email: akoreaninamerica@outlook.com
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