Bina’s Six Apples is a play that from every aspect could be opening just as easily at the Guthrie theater as the Children’s Theatre Company. I say that as praise and a caution. This is a work that adults will find engaging and thought provoking. It does not play down to an audience of children. The recommended age for the show is nine years old and up, and I think it’s important for you to follow those guidelines. In addition, as a parent of a child who had sensory issues growing up, I would also caution that there are loud noises. In particular there a sequence of an extended tone that simulates the ringing in ones ears after an explosion. There is also a rather intense scene of a woman cruelly frightening a young girl. These are not criticisms of the content, simply a heads up to parents so you can make an informed decision as you best know what your children can handle.
Bina’s Six Apples, a new play written by Lloyd Suh that is having it’s world Premiere at the Children’s Theatre Company. Suh was inspired by stories of his father and his family during the Korean War. Bina is a young girl growing up on her family’s apple orchard in 1950. Her family must flee as the war is coming closer, they need to journey on foot to Busan in the far southwest corner of Korea. Each family must carry what they can, Bina’s job is to carry six apples, all that she can fit in her backpack and her pocket. Early in the journey a bomb is dropped near the family and in the chaos Bina is separated from her family. The rest of the play follows Bina as she tries to get to Busan on her own with her six apples. While this is a story set during the Korean war, it functions for today’s audiences as an empathy gateway. Through Bina’s struggles we can gain a better understanding of what it must be like for the millions of people all over the world who have been displaced by conflicts or natural disasters. That’s a great jumping off point for parents and their kids discussion on the way home.
The cast is led by young Olivia Lampert who plays Bina, an amazing feat for someone so young. She has to play a range of emotions throughout and carry us along on this journey, which she absolutely does. There are six other members of the cast five of them play the members of her family and then also take on the roles of other people she meets on her journey. Two of the standouts were Shelli Delgado who plays among other roles a mother she meets along the way who is looking for her daughter. She is brutal to Bina in what must be a challenging role. Like this performance Elizabeth Pan plays Bina’s grandmother who also does not enact the childrens play version of a weary old woman. Both women play these roles very realistic and it adds to the impact and power of these sequences.
Director Eric Ting does some clever things in staging the show. As the family begins their journey we see them cross the stages slowly almost frozen in place as Bina stops and interacts with one set the others are almost frozen then she moves back like she is walking along a line of hikers conveying the sense that they were all still moving forward. The scenic and lighting designer Jiyoun Chang has created a set that continues to change, enlarge and reveal new surprises throughout the performance. It’s top notch work, minimalist yet simply elaborate greatly accented by lighting design, that at times echos reality and others blasts us with a broad burst to create an emotional punctuation.
Bina’s Six Apples is a powerful play about a specific moment in history through which we can all better understand the plights of our fellow human beings in today’s world. It is also a story of a young person persevering through a difficult journey, about learning responsibility, facing difficult things, and the importance of compassion. You really don’t need to have children to enjoy this play, perhaps the downside of it being performed at the Children’s Theatre Company is people will think of it as a play for young people. In fact, it’s a play that has multigenerational appeal. I hope it finds an audience with older theatregoers as well. Bina’s Six Apples runs through February 13th for more information and to purchase tickets go to https://childrenstheatre.org/whats-on/binas-six-apples/.