The Legend of the Waitress and the Robber

L-R NamPyo Kim, Eunji Lim, Ju Yeon Choi, Yura Noh, Kyongsik Won, James A. Pierce III in The Legend of the Waitress and the Robber at Dixon Place. Photo credit: Stefan Hagen
L-R NamPyo Kim, Eunji Lim, Ju Yeon Choi, Yura Noh, Kyongsik Won, James A. Pierce III in The Legend of the Waitress and the Robber at Dixon Place. Photo credit: Stefan Hagen
Rating
4.6/5

The Legend of the Waitress and the Robber is vital, charming, and entertaining and reminds us that just a few can emerge to challenge a tyrannical regime. A black box theater in New York’s BOHO. Serious artists. The human spirit survives.

Ju Yeon Choi in The Legend of the Waitress and the Robber at Dixon Place posted on OpeningNight.Online. Photo credit: Stefan Hagen.
Ju Yeon Choi as the Waitress in The Legend of the Waitress and the Robber at Dixon Place. Photo credit: Stefan Hagen.
The Factory

The first scene is set in a cafeteria where workers are served soup provided by the government factory by our waitress heroine (Ju Yeon Choi). Workers are frustrated with the potage and demonstrably challenge its paltry sustenance. We discover they are not permitted to speak their native language, Korean, and instead must speak English or face severe penalties from governmental law enforcement. They are warned to lower their voices to avoid being heard criticizing government-provided soup. No one is permitted to speak Korean, their banned native language. They are trapped in a mundane, pedestrian vocation of trading and repairing cell phones. Everyone is dressed uniformly. There are no trips to the spa, restaurants, or fashion department stores.

Innocence

The costumes, sets, and props are strikingly spare, with cardboard cutouts depicting phones, books, a record player, and records. Individuals and sets are unsettling in their simplicity and innocence.




Throughout the production, characters switch from English to Korean with subtitles projected in both languages. The visual and aural contrast between written English and Korean languages is stinging and presents another image of their persecution.

Persecution

The subjugated workers are innocent and amiable with simple demands. The more guileless they appear, the greater the persecution toward them and malfeasance of their oppressors. Those with the least resources should be protected, not diminished and subjugated.

Cell Phones Only

Denizens in this world are permitted to communicate via cell phone only. Speaking out loud is not permitted. Books, music, and art are censored, banned, and destroyed, and the government monitors and controls all aspects of life.

The content of this production is important.

Right to Left standing Nam Pyo Kim, on table James A. Pierce III and NamPyo Kim in The Legend of the Waitress and the Robber at Dixon Place. Photo credit: Stefan Hagen.jpg
Right to Left standing Nam Pyo Kim, on table James A. Pierce III and NamPyo Kim in The Legend of the Waitress and the Robber at Dixon Place. Photo credit: Stefan Hagen.jpg

The simple scenes in the context of oppression are immediately pertinent, disturbing, and personal to anyone with knowledge of living in a dystopian society run by oligarchs or dictators. I recall accounts of my grandparents living in a Soviet Union-occupied Baltic state with government-controlled propaganda and mandatory protracted conscription into a foreign army. The native language and culture were banned. Books were burned, church records were destroyed to erase history, and if one gains permission to write in the native language, they must use the Cyrillic alphabet.

Hope and Art

In all dystopian cultures, there is hope. If we are fortunate, heroes emerge and discover means to enact change. A few can indeed make a difference.

Productions by not-for-profits are vital to the intellectual and artistic well-being of our society. It’s notable that The Legend of the Waitress and the Robber features live music with artists performing on a digital keyboard and percussion. We witnessed artistic freedom that produced sharing, experimentation, creativity, and imagination in a venue that promotes thoughtful and profound reflection in an entertaining, satisfying manner.

The Legend of the Waitress and the Robber

Written by Renee Philippi, with an original score by Lewis Flinn
Directed by Renee Philippi and Eric Nightengale
Produced by Concrete Temple Theatre, Playfactory Mabangzen, Yellow Bomb Inc., and Dixon Place, in partnership with Korean Cultural Center New York
Sets by Carlo Adinolfi, costumes by Laura Anderson Barbata. Musical directors Jacob Kerzner and Hee Eun Kim.

Dixon Place 
Wednesday, May 25 – Sunday, May 29
Runtime 70 minutes without intermission

http://dixonplace.org/

161A Chrystie Street, NYC, between Rivington & Delancey Streets)
New York NY 10002
212 219-0736

contact@dixonplace.org

Tickets: https://ci.ovationtix.com/35526/production/1104926

Readers may enjoy our other reviews like Black StringHit the Wall,  Oratorio for Living Things, Golden Shield at New York City Center, Exception to the Rule, and My Moment – 106 Women on Fighting for Themselves.

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