"Mask Dance" a visionary collaboration from GENseng

"Mask Dance"Black Box Theater, Brodie HallThursday 7 p.m.Friday 4 p.m.Saturday 2 p.m.Tickets - $7

GENseng tackles the controversial subject of international adoption this weekend with Rick Shiomi's "Mask Dance," a play about Korean-American adoptees struggling to find their place in the world.

The play follows three adoptees - Karen, Lisa and Carl - as they walk the line between two worlds: the Korean world of their past and the American world of their present. They clash with their parents, cling to each other and wrestle with their ethnicity. But through all of this, they learn to survive.

In watching their struggles, the audience gets a genuine glimpse into the beautiful and tragic existence of the adoptees. Shiomi based the play on interviews with Korean adoptees, and the conflict portrayed in the play comes off as genuine and understandable.

The play sheds light on international adoption and illuminates its dual nature as a blessing and a curse. Shiomi questions the morality of separating families while also making a strong argument for familial bonds that form even without blood connections. In addition, "Mask Dance" explores the tortured emotions and identity issues that come from being torn between two separate worlds.

The massive ensemble effort that went into making "Mask Dance" - from the set design to the mask-making to a supplementary talk by alumna Dana LePage about growing up as an adoptee - demonstrated impressive levels of creativity and collaboration.

GENseng decided to perform "Mask Dance" to add the experiences of Asian-American adoptees to its "pan-Asian" repertoire. Sophomore Shea Frazier's accompanying research display in the lobby of the Black Box Theater compiles letters, accounts and other documents that illustrate many sides of the adoption conflict.

First time actor and junior Hui-Min Chia gives a standout performance as the youngest and often most conflicted adoptee, Lisa. Alternating between effervescence and vulnerability, Chia stands out from the ensemble.

The drummers in the mask dance chorus display a remarkable amount of talent, as do the cast members that dance to its accompaniment. Sophomore Christina Park does a fantastic job as choreographer and music director in bringing traditional Korean mask dance to the stage.

The costumes are magnificent, especially the dancers' masks, which were designed and created by visiting assistant professor Crystal Ferrell's Theater 305 class. Park is ethereal in her white gown and makeup, forming a delightful contrast with the boots-and-black-leather look of performer P.K. Lee, played by junior Liz Cho.

The set for the show, designed by senior art students Minerva Campbell and Yuki Kawae, is beautiful in its simplicity and features strips of hanging wood that utilize the lighting to create a different mood for each scene. Strips of primary colored tape enhance a complementary color scheme in the mask dancers, and the set's non-obstructive nature makes it ideal for the Black Box venue.

"Mask Dance" opens Thursday, April 29 at 7 p.m. with subsequent performances on Friday, April 30 at 4 p.m. and Saturday, May 1 at 2 p.m. Tickets are on sale for $7 in the Brodie Box Office.