Secret Pain revealed in “Comfort”

Part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival XV
by Rannie McCants

The cultural significance of Comfort is undeniable. This play is an imaginative form of docu-theater written and directed by Jung Han Kim about sex slaves kidnapped from Asian countries, like Korea and China, for the comfort of Japanese soldiers during World War II. These women were drugged and defiled 50 to 200 times a day, and then their pain was concealed from Japanese history books. The world has since remained ignorant, for so many years, to the suffering of hundreds of thousands. Now, there are nine known survivors living to tell their stories, which Kim shares openly and compassionately.

comfortThe play follows the frustrating circular conflict of the main character, Peter, a passion-crazed drug addict who dreams of a World War II sex slave named Roksun. He wants to tell her story through a documentary he’s spent 4 years making, but his producer, John, played by Lucio Fernandez doesn’t find it entertaining enough for television. Yet, Roksun still appears in his drug-induced dreams and haunts him to make the film his heart wants to be made.

Certain theater elements succeeded. The ensemble’s ribbons-for-chains that entrapped Roksun in a hazy, terrifying grip were an excellent visual connection between her and the pain of other victims. In the audience, I wanted to grant her the mercy she never received and free her from her experiences. On the other hand, I was incredibly disappointed to see that Asians were completely absent from the play. For a story so rich in Asian history, the story would have seemed more genuine if casted with Asian actors and dancers.

Additionally, the play told me about some extreme hardships, but did the minimal amount to show me. I wanted to see, not hear, about how the government is covering up the existence of sex slaves during the war. I wanted to see, not hear, the despairing moment when Roksun was forced to leave her country. I wanted Peter to leave his apartment and share his story with people on the street. If he’s really that desperate for people to know, why is he sitting at home taking drugs?

Despite the shortcomings in the script, the story is still pumping with young new blood and worth taking a look into due to its content. Performances will continue on July 26th @ 1:00 PM, July 27th @ 6:30 PM, and August 1st @ 7:30 PM at the Jewel Box Theater, 312 West 36th Street, 4th floor. Tickets are $18.00 and can be purchased at http://www.midtownfestival.org or call 866-811-4111. It will also have a special Gala performance in the Lincoln Center, The Bruno Walter Auditorium, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, on August 4th @ 7:00 and August 8th @ 7:00 where South Korean victims will join. These tickets are also $18.00 and can be purchased at http://www.smarttix.com/Show.aspx?ShowCode=COM94 or call 212-868-4444.

 

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