Wirtz Center to premiere dark comedy “peerless” this weekend


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

“peerless” is a modern take on “Macbeth” and follows twin sisters trying to get into “The College.”

Ashley Lee, Reporter

Playwright Jiehae Park’s dark comedy “peerless” is set to hit the stage at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts this weekend.

A modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” “peerless” is a master’s of fine arts collaboration that tells the story of twin sisters, M and L, and their journey of getting into “the College.” When one of the sisters does not get accepted, they hatch a plan to get rid of all the obstacles standing in their way.

Communication junior Zach Forbes, an assistant director, said “peerless” is a love story, thriller and dark comedy at its core. He found the play to be interesting because of his love for Shakespearean adaptations, he added. Throughout the process, however, Forbes discovered the play offers so much more.

“You don’t necessarily have to know Shakespeare to enjoy this play. Even without the connection to Macbeth, ‘peerless’ is an extraordinary play on its own,” Forbes said.

Third-year MFA in Directing student and Director Ji Won Jeon said she chose this play because she found a personal connection to the story.

While she worked as a freelance director in South Korea, she tutored students for standardized tests. Jeon said she realized many students felt their purpose in life revolved around the college process.

“Reading this play, I felt that I knew these two twin girls so well because I encountered them every summer,” Jeon said.

Jeon, along with other members of the production crew and cast, said many students at Northwestern will relate to the grueling admissions process in the story.

Communication senior Emily Zhang, who plays M, said she is excited to put “peerless” on stage.

“It’s something that everyone can relate to. Whether you are a college student, kid or parent,” Zhang said. “College students have gone through the process, kids might go through it someday, and parents may have college on their minds.”

The play also dives into complicated conversations about race, Jeon said.

She added that the play tries to deconstruct and raises questions about minority rights and access to higher education as well as racial, cultural and indigenous identity.

“What’s actually important when we talk about cultural identity — is it blood quantum or something else?” Jeon said. “For example, is someone more ‘Korean’ because they are one-half Korean compared to someone who is only one-fourth Korean?”

The play also allows underrepresented identities to shine on stage. Three out of the five actors are people of color, Zhang said.

Second-year MFA in Acting student Mi Kang, who plays L, said the play challenges assumptions about underrepresented groups.

“I’m an advocate for representation on stage. I know that there is a lack of representation of Asian Americans,” she said. “‘peerless’ starts with Asian American stereotypes, and as the play progresses, they break it. It becomes this story about real people.”

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Twitter: @ashley_yw_lee

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