Shakespeare’s Ophelia appears, all alone, to reveal her impressions regarding the goings on in Elsinore in While Ophelia’s Korean Drum Weeps, now running during the 20th Annual New York International Fringe Festival.
This unique performance is a solo piece written and performed by Ji Young Choi, a talented actress from Korea. In addition to her passion for Shakespeare, Hamlet in particular, Choi infuses the piece with additional artistry, communicating various emotions through the traditional Korean drum. We learn about Ophelia’s mother (a mysteriously nonexistent character in Hamlet) and her life before she met the Prince of Denmark. When she encounters the young prince, the two form an instant bond, and they become the best of friends.
When Hamlet learns of his father’s murder he confides in Ophelia, and she alone witnesses his suicidal introspection, the most famous speech in all of Shakespeare, with Hamlet seemingly unaware that Ophelia is hidden nearby, able to hear every word he utters (we know she does because she repeats them for the audience).
There is a reoccurring motif of water, seemingly a source of solace for the young girl. The sound of water comes and goes throughout the piece, signaling the inevitable approach of Ophelia’s doom.
Choi is an engaging performer, yet the piece unfolds in a predictable manner without very many new insights into Ophelia’s character other than the expressive drum. She essentially goes through the beats of Hamlet and has the expected reactions to what she sees around her. Where Ophelia ends up is of course known to everyone familiar with Shakespeare’s play, and that is indeed where she arrives in this solo piece. We don’t really discover anything new about Ophelia, Hamlet or the happenings in Elsinore’s court. But Ji Young Choi is a compelling actress and the drum does indeed communicate both joy and sorrow, and for that reason While Ophelia’s Korean Drum Weeps is a fairly interesting expression of Ophelia’s heartache.