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Park Hae-soo returns to theater as Mephisto in 'Faust'

Feb. 22, 2023 - 18:31 By Hwang Dong-hee
Actor Park Hae-soo at the press conference for "Faust" at LG Arts Center Seoul, Tuesday (SEM Co.)

Actor Park Hae-soo is returning to the theater stage after sweeping the globe in Netflix’s “Squid Game,” “Money Heist” and “Narco-Saints.”

Park plays Mephistopheles, or Mephisto the devil, in Goethe’s tragic play “Faust” slated to run at LG Arts Center Seoul, from March 31 to April 29.

Before his fame in film and television after making a breakthrough performance in tvN’s “Prison Playbook,” Park had been a prolific stage actor since his debut with the play “Annapurna" in 2007. He went on to star in classical plays such as “The Seagull,” “Macbeth” and “Frankenstein.”

“I love classics. Because they have the power to deliver a message while they explore the relationships between a god and a human, between a human and a human,” said Park during a press conference at the venue on Tuesday.

“'Faust’ came to me,” said Park. “I am so grateful -- and a bit afraid -- to take on the role of Mephisto which is not an easy character.”

Mephisto makes a bet with God over the human Faust, a scholar who is highly successful yet dissatisfied with his life. Mephisto seduces Faust leading him into secular pleasures.

“Mephisto is the devil but it is not portrayed as the wicked … especially in these days where good and evil are unclear. If I create the character in detail, I wonder if Mephisto could be a character the audience can empathize with.”

(From left) Actors Park Hae-soo, Won Jin-a, director Yang Jung-ung, actors Yoo In-chon and Park Eun-seok pose for group photos at LG Arts Center Seoul, Tuesday. (SEM Co.)
Poster for "Faust" (SEM Co.)

Another reason he joined the play was the troupe, he said, and in particular veteran actor Yoo In-chon.

Park and Yoo met in 2012 when Park won the rookie prize for the acting award named after Yoo. Park said that he was mesmerized by Yoo’s performance and delivery of lines at reading rehearsals.

“(His words) are like an orchestra -- the diction, long-short sounds and everything. … He remembered I won the prize 10 years ago. It is such an honor for me,” said Park.

Yoo, who played Mephisto in 1996, takes on the role of Dr. Faust this time. He said he was attracted to the character who has accomplished so much but is still depressed and craves for more.

Actor Park Eun-seok from the SBS series “The Penthouse” will play the young Faust.

Actor Won Jin-a from Netflix’s “Hellbound” (2021) and JTBC’s “She Would Never Know” (2021) is making her theatrical debut as Gretchen, an innocent maiden who falls in love with the young Faust.

Taking the helm of the play is director Yang Jung-ung from the Yohangza Theatre Co., whose career has spanned several continents from his role as artistic director for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics to his theater works. He has been invited to various Shakespeare festivals around the globe including Barbican Centre and Shakespeare’s Globe.

“I think now is precisely the right time to stage this play. What Goethe had questioned a long time ago about human desires is still valid today in a society where we are leaping endlessly for what we desire,” Yang said.

The play was shortened to 165 minutes but adapted to faithfully reflect the literary beauty of the original text as much as possible while playing out more modern touches visually, said the director.