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. 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.
"The show is virtually flawless in almost every regard...With ‘Aubergine,’ Cho has composed an astonishingly beautiful tale that firmly establishes her as a major talent in the pantheon of modern playwrights. Her words present a daunting but rewarding task for the director and cast, who must demonstrate their own virtuosity with every line to properly convey the artistry and heart that unfolds throughout. All of them succeed, and it’s remarkable to behold." Full Review
"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
"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
"'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
"Full of depth, 'Aubergine' is a quiet play in many ways, yet it is incredibly moving. Cho deftly deals with that most human of events–dying and death–without being heavy-handed...I should say too that this is not a depressing play, despite dealing so intimately with death. 'Catharsis' is the word PlaywrightsHorizons’ artistic director uses to describe the feeling. I would call it a kind of fullness, the feeling the audience carries out the door with them." Full Review
"Julia Cho manages to write a beautiful story about love, loss, and the beauty that comes after. 'Aubergine' is a play that everyone must see!...Tim Kang delivers a flavorful performance. He never leaves the stage...If you are in need of some type of closure, need to feel some sense of home, or in need of some beautiful theatre, make your way to Playwrights Horizons and see 'Aubergine.' Guaranteed to resonate with every generation." Full Review
"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
“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
"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
"‘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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"While the device can, at times, seem a bit contrived, strong performances and sensitive direction keep the play down to earth...Ultimately, Cho’s talent for tying narrative bows means that she occasionally leaves less room for ambiguity than 'Aubergine' probably needs. And the inclination to consistently resolve those threads through the lens of food can sometimes verge on the pat...But all told, 'Aubergine' is rarely over-sweet, and includes much to savor." 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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
See it if you want to watch an incredibly moving and heartfelt piece of theatre that came from the hearts of the writer, actors and everyone involved
Don't see it if you're not ready for a serious night of theatre and tears
See it if you love plays about fathers and sons and food that will linger in your memory long after.
Don't see it if you only like musicals, are triggered by plays about dying fathers, or aren't willing to read a few supertitles (some lines in Korean),
See it if you love captivating new plays that show different parts of the American experience than the usual white middle class living room play.
Don't see it if you'll be bothered by the subject matter, which is about death and specifically losing parents. It's really masterfully written, though.
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
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.
See it if you're interested in a diverse cast, a thoughtful play dealing with death, good writing, and moving performances
Don't see it if you're in the mood for something light and fluffy. There's humor and funny moments, but it's an emotionally wrenching play.
See it if you want to be deeply moved - the ending of this play made my cry more than any other show or movie I've seen all year.
Don't see it if you'd get impatient with a slowly moving story. There's literally 2 hours between an otherwise unconnected opening monologue and its payoff.
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.
See it if You like thought provoking plays about family strife and coping with an ailing parent. Lovely acting, solid writing.
Don't see it if You don't like a non linear plot, or if you don't like monologue-heavy shows. Some parts were confusing and took awhile to be resolved.
See it if you appreciated family even if the relationships are a bit iffy.
Don't see it if you cannot bear to see a play about death.
Also The playwright is a Korean American but this show appeals to everyone.
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
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
See it if you enjoy stories from perspectives/of experiences unlike your own. You want to salivate over the playwright's & actors' use of language.
Don't see it if u prefer more action/less talk. Strong emphasis on comm. (dialogue btwn characters & direct addresses to audience). Waxing philosophical.
See it if you're a foodie. Or if you enjoy exploring the topic of death and how it affects us. I loved this play. Beautiful performances.
Don't see it if you're going to expect everything to make logical sense. There's an air of magical realism here. It worked for me.
See it if Thoughful, moving work on loss (particuliarly a parent) and an after-life. Cho's best work as playwright; fluid direction & acting
Don't see it if Recent loss of someone close or a hospice journey. Bothered by deliberate (slow) story development & pacing. Multiple endings saddle finish
See it if stories about food, family, and words unspoken intrigue you. Peppered w/bittersweet, strong food memories that represent their lives/regrets
Don't see it if death and dying are too much to bear - though this serves as a catalyst to reveal relationships, intergenerational/transnational differences
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.
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
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