In Cha Hyun Suk’s play, which is part of Assembly’s Korean season, a therapist practices in a tearoom that he owns. On this day, he is getting dressed, shining his shoes, feeding the fish and is planning to visit his wife’s grave as it’s the anniversary of her death. Suddenly, a patient appears, soaked from the rain and panting from his run from the station.
It’s immediately evident from his mannerisms that there is more to the situation than immediately meets the eye. Nicholas Black, the therapist, starts a process to ‘build trust’. The narrative flips and turns and with each twist some new information is revealed. The characters are written well and the scenes are taut. The act of pouring coffee and stirring in sugar is led by one man or the other. And this alternates depending on who has the upper hand. The counsellor becomes the counselled as secrets emerge from their shared past. Time is running out in their trust building exercise.
The production navigates the space well. The effects of the past bears down on the present. And trust becomes a commodity, as if to be handed out until the next revelation. But, in several places the storyline is confusing. A thrill fails to develop and instead of being a nuanced story of trust and blame, it feels forced. Towards the end the narrative suspends belief and goes into the realm of the overdramatic. The actors look like they are not fully in character either. A bit of a disappointing second half certainly, but with an interesting script as this one, has the potential to entertain some.