Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Intelligent

About the show

Playwrights Horizons presents the NYC premiere of Julia Cho's new play, a mediation on family, loss, and the expressive power of preparing a meal.

... Read more

A man shares a bowl of berries, and a young woman falls in love. A world away, a mother prepares a bowl of soup to keep her son from leaving home. And a son cooks a meal for his dying father to say everything that words can’t. In Julia Cho’s poignant and lyrical new play, the making of a perfect meal is an expression more precise than language, and the medium through which life gradually reveals itself.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"A sensitive but sometimes sluggish drama...There’s a languidness to the proceedings that had me slipping down in my chair...Sadness and frustration can make for a less than enthralling evening of theater. Nor is 'Aubergine' wholly free of a preciousness that got under my skin...The monologues that pepper the text can be more disruptive than engaging, despite the excellent acting...Your affection for 'Aubergine' may fundamentally come down to how sentimental you are about food." Full Review


"At times, the play is insightful and moving, although Cho could make it even more so by taking a meat cleaver to all the fat...While director Kate Whoriskey has led the cast to credible performances of highly specific characters, the design is a lot more aimless... Between the smart acting, thoughtful prose, and underwhelming production, 'Aubergine' is the theatrical equivalent of a functional yet unmemorable meal: It might fill you up, but it is entirely devoid of flavor." Full Review


"'Aubergine,' a new play by Julia Cho, poses a unique challenge. The language is lovely, the dramatic structure is impressive and the polished Playwrights Horizons production directed by Kate Whoriskey is impeccable. But the play itself is a somber meditation on death and, as such, as relentlessly depressing as a three-day wake." Full Review


"‘Aubergine,’ a light drama full of sweetness and warmth, explores that connection between food and emotions in a tale about a chef who, in the midst of tragedy, seems to have lost his magical knack for making things better with his culinary creations…While the subject of death is always present, Cho and director Kate Whoriskey do a fine job of sustaining a sense of comfort and humor…‘Aubergine’ may make you hungry for a post-performance snack, but it's certainly satisfying theatre." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Cho’s concept is savory enough to sustain the audience for most of the play. But the focus on sense and memory gets repetitious, and much of the play is lumpy: Flashbacks seem horned in, the denouement stumbles, and the writing becomes explanatory...Depending on your taste, the play’s dusting of magical realism may give Aubergine a pleasant zest. To me, it felt like the showy seasoning of a chef who doesn’t trust her ingredients." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"A moving meditation on love, loss, and the emotional power of food...The structurally ragged drama includes several lengthy monologues that slow down the narrative momentum...But for all its flaws, 'Aubergine' has a deeply felt emotionality, beautifully rendered in Kate Whoriskey's sensitive direction and the ensemble's excellent performances. Anyone who's ever shared a quiet late-night meal with a loved one, especially one who's no longer here, will find much to relate to." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Julio Cho writes in a program note about the way food attaches to memory, and vice versa. Unfortunately, the play itself does not so much demonstrate this connection as state it over and over: a recipe for dramatic starvation. It’s a curious botch, full of intelligence and watchfulness but almost entirely lacking in propulsion...'Aubergine' is all points and no play...Were it not for some very fine actors doing careful detail work, you would really have nothing to watch." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"'Aubergine' is a provocative, emotionally-effective comedy-drama centered around death, family and gastronomy, and totally delectable...The cast is universally strong...This very special play is well guided by director Kate Whoriskey...Cho has more than a dozen productions to her credit...The impressive 'Aubergine' demonstrates that she is a first-class playwright, indeed." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"For a play about the salubrious effects of good food, 'Aubergine' could use a little spicing up…It's not bad, but it's certainly not flavorful…A certain falsity sets in, and it is never fully dispelled…’Aubergine’ has a fair number of funny, perceptive, and touching aspects, but, ultimately, it feels too polite, too obviously calculated to provide a sense of uplift, too determined to scrub its central situation of anything too ugly or disturbing. Real life is messier than this." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"A tender play both incisive and contrived...Under Kate Whoriskey’s direction, scenes are skillful and affecting, cruel and kind. There are wordless pleasures here...But Cho interleaves these insightful scenes with somewhat forced monologues in which each character describes the best meal that he or she has ever eaten. Each of these speeches is elegantly written, but these seem like rather blatant demonstrations of Cho’s skills and concerns rather than vital components of the piece." Full Review

New York Theater

"In 'Aubergine,' an appealing, lyrical family drama, life boils down to two essentials: food and death...The way that Diane eventually features in the main story helps invest Cho’s play with a lovely magical realism...Cho’s play isn’t strictly realistic. although the acting is all low-key and convincing...At one point, Lucien gives Ray a gift of an eggplant...but calls it an aubergine....'That starts to approach the beauty of the thing itself.' As with aubergine, so with 'Aubergine.'" Full Review

Broadway Blog

“Unfortunately, there’s not quite enough meat on ‘Aubergine’s' bones to fill out its over two hours’ traffic on the stage; toward the end, the conclusion seems ever more elusive. It proceeds from brief episode to brief episode but rarely comes to a boil, the most intense moment coming just before intermission...‘Aubergine’ is the uncommon word for a common vegetable, eggplant. In her play, Julia Cho also has made something uncommon out of the common.” Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Cho's beautiful and immensely sensitive new play...There's so much to chew on here that the occasional misstep barely registers. From family to faith to redemption to, of course, food, Cho deconstructs and dissects every conceivable element of who we are and how we got here until she has painted a sprawling portrait of humanity from the inside out...It's way more than interesting—it's one of the most gorgeous and unforgettable plays of the year." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"At first the show is a sleeper, but it wakes up in the second act to a profound experience. Part of that has to do with the wonderful Tim Kang...This is one layered, fabulous actor...Here food communicates the emotions, childhood memories, parental disagreements and who these characters really are deep down inside...The cast is strong, especially Mr. Kang. The direction by Kate Whoriskey is disjointed in the first act and much more concise in the second half." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"There’s plenty of magic simmering away at Playwrights Horizons with Julia Cho’s new play. Food, memories, attachments, and parent/child dynamics play powerful ingredients in this deeply felt piece, directed impeccably by Kate Whoriskey. It fills the theatrical air with such love and magic, but also with a taste of deep sadness and longing...A thoughtful and beautifully crafted play that takes us all, regardless of cultural upbringing, through a journey of familiar love and loss." Full Review


"A situation in which a dying, comatose man is center stage during most of the play isn't exactly the stuff of must-see dramas, but Kate Whoriskey directs sensitively and without rushing things. She draws equally sensitive performances from the six actors...A flaw that can't be reasoned away is that the playwright has overstuffed 'Aubergine's' menu. She makes her points too often and for too long which tends to rob the experience of a good deal of its flavor and energy." Full Review


"An engaging and universal work that unevenly blends reality with mysticism. The characters are all very well delineated and the dialogue is flavorful and realistic… Repetitiveness and a preoccupation with profundity sidetrack its effectiveness…Director Kate Whoriskey realizes ‘Aubergine’s’ dramatic potential with her steady staging and the sensitive and compelling performances of the cast…’Aubergine’s’ unnecessary lapses into grandiosity ultimately do not mar its achievements." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"Julia Cho’s new play at Playwrights Horizons is a flawed, uneven work, but it packs an emotional wallop...A common thread that stitches the play together is the important role of food in our memories and family relationships...There are many engaging moments, but they don’t fit together all that well. Some trimming would improve the play, especially dropping the facile ending...Kate Whoriskey’s direction is a bit sluggish at times." Full Review


"Covering all-too-familiar ground, it’s not an altogether satisfying play, but there are many moments where your taste buds will explode with pleasure…As superb as these many monologues are you can’t help but wish that Cho had spent the same amount of time and energy on crafting actual dialogue...From such a seasoned playwright, one expects a four-star, completely fulfilling meal, rather than one that leaves you a little hungry and a bit underwhelmed." Full Review

The Associated Press

"What’s for dinner? How about a rich stew of family communication failures, served with a tender side dish of unspoken love spiced with comic seasoning?...The attempt to create a perfect meal to communicate with someone can be fraught with a complex mixture of memories and hopes, which Julia Cho captures beautifully in her new play, 'Aubergine,' directed with delicate precision by Kate Whoriskey. Cho imbues her meditation on family interactions with gentle humor and quiet simplicity." Full Review


"There are many lovely, moving moments in ‘Aubergine,’ Julia Cho’s exploration of the deep role of food in our memories. Though the results are not as meaningful as the scattered anecdotes and stories, Cho continues to create characters whose originality takes us into rich territory…Director Kate Whoriskey deftly moves the play’s many scenes within a soft-colored set of smooth unfinished wood. Alas, Cho’s insights about food and about death are, too often, done in by banality." Full Review


"Julia Cho attempts the tricky task of weaving together the subjects of food and death. She achieves affecting moments…But, dramatically wobbly, the play doesn't fill out an entire evening…Ranging from goodhearted to morbid, ‘Aubergine’ has the mismatched feel of having been expanded…Running a little over two hours, it feels padded...As it is, it's a play of deeply sympathetic, thoughtful ideas that never manages to become compelling." Full Review


"Playwright Cho depicts both Ray’s anxiety and sense of duty in ways that feel remarkably honest: Ray won’t even go for a walk outside, lest he not be present for the moment his father dies...Cho’s notion of centering the play around food as a way of expressing love is potent, though she switches up ingredients in the second act, and a monologue that tries to explain a key element of the father’s personality threatens to unmoor the drama." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"There are lovely things in this production, including Derek McLane's elegant origami-style set…But I wasn't as taken with the show as much as some others…'Aubergine's' Proustian allusions to the memories food evokes, the connections it reinforces, didn't seem all that fresh to me. And some of the magical realism Cho added seemed a bit forced…Even though this play didn't fully satisfy me, I'm grateful that it was made so easily available for me to taste." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"Julia Cho’s touching play has all the elements of comfort food: it’s a work that knows when to touch what button without being obvious or heavy-handed. The playwright expertly weaves in cultural elements without ever exoticizing the characters...Anchored by Kang’s sober, stoic performance, 'Aubergine,' only lags during its second act...Cho, and director Kate Whoriskey, stir their stew calmly, allowing the flavors to be released only as they chose to reveal themselves." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Absorbing, Sappy, Cliched, Uneven, Thoughtful

See it if Asian family dramas

Don't see it if sappiness

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you want a great story of end of life palliative care & the family's emotional.realities.

Don't see it if you don't want to see above.

Intense, Slow, Moving, Entertaining, Fit for foodies

See it if You're a foodie or you like how food can be a part of your life through ritual and within family dynamics.

Don't see it if You're looking for something dynamic -- this is more of a slow burn.

Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Bittersweet, Unhurried

See it if You want to see South Asian families stories represented on stage Are up for delving into care giving, death and unresolved relationships

Don't see it if You are freshly grieving and need distance

Also The play uses the sensations and memories of food to connect to experi... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Slow, Uneven

See it if You are crazy for food- driven story lines.

Don't see it if Are annoyed by uneven acting.

Absorbing, Interesting,emotional

See it if You believe in the universality of family guilt and love.

Don't see it if You are accompanied by a cancer can make for a very uncomfortable evening.

Great acting, Resonant, Tearjerker, Overdue

See it if For a view into an America almost never seen on stage. Interested in stories about generational tensions and communication.

Don't see it if Can't identify with non-white protagonists (see lame excuses for Birth of the Dragon), looking for comedy or action, militantly vegan

Absorbing, Intelligent, Intense

See it if the relationship between food, love, culture and power fascinates. This smart play that deals with a parent's death among the struggles

Don't see it if watching a character deal with Hospice and death onstage is too much for your personal sensibilities

Also The struggle of the post-war Koreans against the deprivations of both ... Read more Read less

Poignant, Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Enlightenting

See it if you want to see a poignant and enlightening play about death and dying, but mostly about living and loving, as well as the meaning of meals

Don't see it if you are not interested in a lyrical, steady-moving, play dealing with the special ways a Korean family shows its love, family, and loss.

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant, Great staging

See it if You enjoy plays about family, food, and how it all intertwines.

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with heavier themes of death and revelations of the self.

Absorbing, Enchanting, Great acting, Riveting

See it if So moving. Sweet, raw, touching, personal. The actors were so good! Recommend highly.

Don't see it if You can't handle emotional works or works that explore death.

Ambitious, Relevant, Indulgent, Slow, Great staging

See it if you enjoy Asian culture.

Don't see it if you hate watching a character's slow, painful demise center stage.

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Disappointing, Cliched

See it if You love food & the human relationship to it and around death...

Don't see it if If you are bored easily. Slow moving plot & just kind of over your head enough to not make any sense in the end

Great acting, Disappointing, Cliched, Family-oriented

See it if you like stories about chefs with family drama and/or plays about illness/death and acceptance/grief. Diverse cast. Great set. Solid acting.

Don't see it if you don't like plays where characters monologue to the audience. You don't like plays full of watered down cliches.

Also Aside from the end of act I, this play wasn't enough of anything to pr... Read more Read less

Excruciating, Terrible acting, Terrible lighting, Illogical set design

See it if You're very interested in food and droning monologues that lend nothing to the story.

Don't see it if You expect something more than amateurish acting, a first draft script and terrible design elements.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if You can relate to the ways in which food can intimately link our memories, familial connections, and emotions.

Don't see it if You need more humor. There are funny moments and lines, but ultimately it is a slower-paced show steeped in loss, disappointment, and death.

Indulgent, Disappointing, Slow, Unfocused, Uneven acting

See it if You like plays that deal with sickness/ death issues

Don't see it if Unfocused writing and uneven acting are unforgivable.

Absorbing, Relevant, Resonant, Slow

See it if you liked Wit. you are interested in the uneven progression of acceptance of death.

Don't see it if You are troubled by ruminatios on death and dying. you dont like stagy, less than fluent staging.

Original, Absorbing, Intense, Thought-provoking, Profound

See it if It's a serious drama about food, love, life, and death. Truly original. There are some genius moment. Although it can use some modification.

Don't see it if If you don't like the subject matter (death), or if on-stage subtitles turn you off

Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant, Evocative, Great acting & tight direction

See it if You're ready for a beautifully acted & sharply directed meditation on death & dying, being/not being, life & living & food as metaphor.

Don't see it if You lack imagination, or fight it; only appreciate fast food; believe like some critics Aubergine's a fancy word & not just simple French.

Funny, Profound, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if Enjoyable and relatable story about family relationships with some great moments

Don't see it if The framing sequences were irrelevant and the first act was slow for me. Overall it could have been 30 minutes shorter

Clever, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy an intelligent, well written and performed play about a subject that affects us all.

Don't see it if You have trouble understanding a familiar topic presented in novel and unique way.

Intense, Relevant, Great food monologues

See it if You believe in the transformative power of food and food memories.

Don't see it if Discussions of death upset you. You like sophisticated dialogue that explains through conversations between characters, rather than preaches

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You have fond memories with family meals

Don't see it if You don't want to see a play that deals with losing a parent/family member

Great acting, Confusing, Disappointing, Choppy, Un-united themes

See it if you like Tim Kang. He and the rest of the cast are great but the food theme and monologues are never united in a package.

Don't see it if you can't see everything

Cast & Creatives (13)