In American Hwangap, Lloyd Suh's charmingly witty and gently woebegone world premiere, hwangap the momentous 60th birthday marking completion of the astrological life cycle in Korean tradition is occasion for a fresh start for Min Suk (an irresistibly expansive Keone Young), a former engineer and disenchanted immigrant returning home to his Texas-raised Korean American family 15 years after abandoning them and fleeing back to the old country. Of course, it's not so easy to go home again.
Oldest son David (a razor-sharp Ryun Yu), the New York investment banker whose roiling inner turmoil takes the form of hilarious sangfroid, stays perpetually perched on the phone. Daughter Esther (a potent Angela Lin) vents her rage at her father soon after fetching him from the airport. Only youngest son Ralph (Jon Norman Schneider) seems suitably excited about the upcoming celebration, but then he's over 30 and still living like a preteen in his mother's basement. And while ex-wife Mary (a gracefully assured Jodi Long) musters a generous and forgiving mood, she is no longer the docile hausfrau Min Suk once knew. For his part, Min Suk remains determined to somehow win back their affection, persevering with sharp-witted good nature and newfound humility, even as it leads him literally up the backyard tree.
Magic Theatre and new artistic director Loretta Greco hit this one out of the park. Suh's American Hwangap is a fresh, heartfelt and very funny family drama whose Shepard-esque themes and setting come underscored by passing slide-guitar licks and Erik Flatmo's delicately whimsical scenic design, which gives just the right lift to the comically bent realism in director Trip Cullman's production.
Wed/29-Sat/2, 8 p.m.; Sun/3, 2:30 and 7 p.m., $45-$75
Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF