HONGBU & NOLBU: THE TALE OF THE MAGIC PUMPKINS by Jean Yoon, directed by Allen MacInnis, with Nina Lee Aquino, In-Surp Choi, Richard Lee and Jane Luk. Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front East). Runs to May 8, Saturday 12:30 and 4 pm, Sunday 2 pm. $19-$29. 416-862-2222. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
In the world of fairy tales, pumpkins are more than just the kernel of Cinderella's magical coach.
Take the Korean tale of brothers Hongbu and Nolbu, dramatized by Jean Yoon in a splendidly exuberant production by director Allen MacInnis .
Nolbu's ( In-Surp Choi ) the elder son, rich and snobby, the latter trait exacerbated by his proud, shrewish wife, Myung-Mi ( Jane Luk ). The kind Hongbu is his baby brother, thrown out of the house along with his wife, Mira ( Nina Lee Aquino ), by Nolbu.
As in a Grimm fairy tale, kindness to animals leads to unexpected rewards - three magic pumpkin seeds - after Hongbu and Mira care for a wounded swallow.
When the jealous Nolbu and controlling, chocolate-mad Myung-Mi try to duplicate their success, the avaricious duo are severely disappointed.
The story, aimed at audiences five and up, gets a fine staging, full of drumming, puppetry, masks and theatrical surprises.
The energetic cast's clearly having fun, and Julia Tribe 's impressive set and costumes and Lesley Wikinson 's lighting are winners, as is Debashis Sinha 's live music.
Yoon's worked some Korean lines as well as contemporary elements into the text: "You're such a wuss," says one character, and another talks about a PlayStation.
The young audience loves the modern references and cartoon-like monsters, though at times they react to the show's physicality and Three Stooges comedy more than the story's exposition.
The pumpkins alone, though, are guaranteed to please viewers of any age. Truly magical, they're integral not only to the plot but also to the work's wonderful theatricality.