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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Stage Review

Life beyond North Korea in ‘You for Me for You’

Two sisters are starving in North Korea, and the older one, Minjee, is sick. They attempt to flee the country, but only Junhee makes it. She winds up working in a Manhattan hospital, enjoying a life she could only have dreamed of back home. Will she live out that dream, or will she return to North Korea and try to free her sibling? That’s the predictable-looking plot of Mia Chung’s new play, “You for Me for You,” which premiered in Washington, D.C., two months ago. The play, however, runs much deeper, and the production now up from Company One at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Plaza Theatre realizes its potential, right down to the sobering implications of the title.

Chung grew up in San Diego; her parents were born in South Korea. But “You for Me for You” is no propaganda piece. Even though the sisters have scarcely a bowl of rice between them, Minjee (Giselle Ty) doesn’t want to leave the North Korean nest. And the ditsy American (Anna Waldron) who keeps interrupting the North Korean narrative, dropping pens from her hair and speaking in a language we can hardly understand, is an ambivalent promo for the Land of the Free. After Junhee (Jordan Clark) scrapes up the money to pay a Smuggler (Michael Tow) to get them out, she and Minjee cross the border in a peal of thunder, but when the lights come back up, Minjee is still in North Korea and Junhee and the Smuggler are . . . somewhere else. The Smuggler gives Junhee one day to raise the money to bring Minjee across; he goes back to argue with Minjee while Junhee goes on to New York.

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