“Grace, at last we are leaving this room 661.” The suspicious and heavy atmosphere of the play permeates the entrance, the hallway, the stage setting, and even the usher dressed like a bellboy. No part of the theater is out-of-place or roughly designed; instead it draws the audience's attention the moment they enter. The Capone Trilogy is a play of sophisticated direction—it knows how to put its best face forward to the audience.
▲ Entrance of the theater
The play The Capone Trilogy, which was sold out for its premiere and encore runs in 2015 and 2016 and is currently being played in Daehangro, Seoul, is based on the original play by Jethro Compton Productions of the United Kingdom (UK). The story plays out in a small room, room 661, in Hotel Lexington, Chicago. The stage is split into three sections; two for the audience on either side, each seating fifty, and the center for the actors and their narrative.
The play tells three different stories from 1923, 1934, and 1943 based in the same hotel room. “Bad things always happen at the same place,” the characters say. One story is comedic (Loki – The Ruined Clown), one is a suspense thriller (Lucifer – Fallen Angel), and one is hardboiled (Vindici – Incarnation of Revenge), with each story being told in the same theater on different dates. Watching all three is recommended but not necessary because the stories are not directly related to each other.
Only three actors appear over the course of the play. The old man, young man, and the lady keep up a constantly breathless atmosphere, which lasts for approximately 70 minutes. This runtime is relatively short compared to other plays that are being played in Daehangro, which is an advantage for each story, making the play as swift as it is immersive.
Enemy to Colleague, Monologue to Conversation
Vindici – Incarnation of Revenge is the last event to happen in room 661. It takes place in 1943, after Al Capone had been discharged from prison but lost all his authority, leaving his throne empty. The three characters of the episode are Vindici, the young man, Lucy, the lady, and Duce, the old man. The play starts with Vindici’s monologue about his plan to avenge his murdered wife, Grace, by going after Duce, his former boss and the perpetrator. Lucy, Duce’s daughter and Grace’s best friend, then arrives to help out.
Vindici, whose only reason to survive is to gain revenge on Duce, ironically finds life in spending time with his target’s daughter. Rehearsing his thrilling reunion with Duce, Vindici spends much of his time with Lucy; for the first time in months, his monologue becomes a conversation, and the sound of dance steps fills room 661. The paradoxical yet positive transformation of Vindici, whose only companion was the preserved corpse of his wife—he now speaks and dances—arouses the audience’s curiosity regarding the relationship between Vindici and Lucy.
Vindici’s meeting with Lucy triggers a change in the play’s staging. In the opening monologue, in which Vindici continuously talks to and questions himself, the actor does not open his mouth-the monologues are his prerecorded voice. All this changes after Lucy comes knocking; as soon as she appears and begins to make her way into Vindici’s life, the monologues melt away. Their conversations lead the plot, and this change mirrors the transition Lucy brings to Vindici’s life.
This last episode of the trilogy continuously mentions the three characters’ escape from the room 661. Vindici has not stepped out of the room since Grace died, and is determined to end his own life after his revenge. By the end of the play, Vindici releases the red balloon by the window. The last gift Vindici gave to Grace, symbolizing his love and her memory, leisurely soars into the sky.
Minimized Stage, Maximized Delivery
What is notable about the stage set is that it never changes except for the props and periods of blackness. Two doors, a bed, a window, a desk, a pin board, and a drawer are all the stage contains. It is quite challenging to develop a well-organized story in such a restricted setting because it may bore the audience and it is difficult to add variety to the plot.
However, these worries recede, and the set dressing becomes one of the remarkable characteristics of The Capone Trilogy. The set completely resembles a hotel room, and the audience is seated close; audience members are even asked not to stretch their legs because the actors might accidently step on their foot. The stage set and the close distance make the audience feel as if they are in an actual hotel room with the actors.
One of play’s main goals is to convince the audience of the authenticity within a fictitious scene. In most cases, in order to trick the audience, theatrical directors use every means including a variety of props, background music, costumes, and special effects. But The Capone Trilogy, as if ridiculing many other fancy plays, successfully and smoothly involves the audience in the story with limited resources. The three characters fill the stage, and the audience cannot detect even a small moment of slackness. This is the most outstanding strength of the play.
The Capone Trilogy is distinctive in how it is delivered; it breaks the mold of a typical play in several ways. When the audience focuses on the ironic change that Vindici goes through and how the plot is conveyed with deliberation, they are able to appreciate the 70 minutes in room 661 with the actors. The Capone Trilogy might not be a perfect play, but it still delivers an entirely uncommon experience.
Venue: Hongik Daehangno Art Center
Date: March 20, 2018 to June 17
Rating: Rated R
Ticket Price: 30,000 won/ Those who watch the play more than once can receive discounts. /Further details are available online.