The new production at Seattle Children's Theatre is a stunning, inventive, and poetic work. A Single Shard is adapted from the book by Linda Sue Park by Robert Schenkkan. It's a story about an orphan Korean boy in the 12th century. Tree Ear has been taken care of a proud old man, Crane Man, though they have little by way of possessions and live underneath a bridge.
Tree Ear finds himself drawn to pottery and self-apprentices to a master potter, Min. Min and his wife have lost a son. Min rejects Tree Ear because of that, while Min's wife begins to embrace Tree Ear for the same reason. The royal court requests Min to send pottery and Tree Ear takes on a dangerous journey by himself to bring his master's work for evaluation.
It's a story of both self-reliance and hard work, growing up and the process of evaluating how to make decisions - on the basis of short term gain or long term self-realization.
The first thing you'll notice is the awe-inspiring set by Carey Wong, in muted browns and traditional Korean art style. A massive embossed ramp becomes the bridge they sleep under and the roads that Tree Ear travels. Traditional choreography by Sinae Cheh begins the action, danced with precision by ensemble member Richard Nguyen Sloniker. Costumes by Nanette Acosta appear spot-on. Traditional music and sound design by Chris R. Walker and warm, embracing lights from Michelle Habeck complete the technical support elements. Amazing puppetry, especially a beautifully rendered crane, is provided by Annett Mateo.
Jason Ko as Tree Ear is affecting and earnest. Scott Koh as Min is stern and forbiding, with a hint of sorrow. Koh also looks like he's been potting for many years as he works a foot wheel, beginning and sometimes destroying pottery on stage. Another outstanding character is Min's wife, played by Naho Shioya. Ho-Kwan Tse as Crane Man is adequate, but his diction is uneven and his vocal quality is an annoying tenor, the only off-note in the entire production. The rest of the cast is deft and changes seamlessly into multiple characters.
While young children (age 5 or so and up) can understand the story, this production is definitely a whole family affair, and even unaccompanied majors will find delight.
PICTURED ABOVE: Ho-Kwan Tse Jason Ko in A Single Shard
PHOTO BY: Chris Bennion