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‘Aubergine’ review: Food-death link? It’s missing an ingredient

Sue Jean Kim, left, Joseph Steven Yang, Stephen

Sue Jean Kim, left, Joseph Steven Yang, Stephen Park and Tim Kang in "Aubergine," Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. Photo Credit: AP / Joan Marcus

WHAT “Aubergine”

WHERE Playwrights Horizons, 416 W. 42nd St.

INFO $75; 212-279-4200,

BOTTOM LINE Insights about food and death can be lovely, but don’t pull together into an original whole.

There are many lovely, moving moments in “Aubergine,” Julia Cho’s exploration of the deep role of food in our memories. Though the results are not as meaningful as the scattered anecdotes and stories, Cho continues to create characters whose originality takes us into rich territory.

Tim Kang has powerful multilayers of contradictory feelings as Ray, a disillusioned chef and only son of second-generation immigrants. His widowed father (Stephen Park) is comatose — except for the moments when he appears in a harsh flashback — and Ray may never understand his parent’s stinginess and disappointment. The play is an extended deathbed story, seasoned with the wisdom of the hospice caretaker (Michael Potts), a visit from the father’s Korean brother (Joseph Steven Yang) and Ray’s sometimes-girlfriend (Sue Jean Kim), whose facility with Korean helps the unlikely men communicate.

Director Kate Whoriskey deftly moves the play’s many scenes within a soft-colored set of smooth unfinished wood. Alas, Cho’s insights about food and about death are, too often, done in by banality.

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