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Jung Il-woo breaks sexual mold with Molina in 'Kiss of the Spider Woman'

Feb. 5, 2024 - 19:07 By Hwang Dong-hee
Actor Jung Il-woo plays Molina in the play "Kiss of the Spider Woman." (Yonhap)

The Korean production of the play “Kiss of the Spider Woman” kicked off its fourth run on Jan 21 with Jung Il-woo stepping into the role of Molina, a trans woman.

Adapted from the 1976 novel by Argentine author Manuel Puig, the play revolves around two prisoners -- Molina and Valentin, a political prisoner. The two inmates with differing ideologies share a cell in the prison and gradually come to accept each other.

Also cast in the role of Molina are Yi Youll and Jeon Bak-chan.

Jung is making his theatrical comeback after a five-year hiatus since the play “The Elephant Song” in 2019.

At a rehearsal that was open to the press, Jung looked at his reflection, delicately straightening his clothes and delivered his lines in a higher pitch than his natural voice.

“Two prisoners, who are different in every way, share a bond in a confined space of a cell. I am focusing on the depth of emotions (Molina) feels for Valentin,” said Jung.

“I feel awkward speaking in my natural voice when wearing Molina’s costume and makeup. Rather than artificially changing my voice into a female voice, I thought about which voice color would suit the character best.”

Yi Youll (left) and Cha Sun-woo plays Molina and Valentin, respectively, in the play "Kiss of the Spider Woman." (Yonhap)
Director Park Je-young speaks in a press conference at the Yegreen Theater in Daehangno, on Friday. (Yonhap)

The role of Valentin also sees a triple cast -- Park Jeong-bok, Choi Suk-jin and Cha Sun-woo.

Choi, who returned to the stage after a hiatus due to a stroke in May, and Cha, a former member of the K-pop boy group B1A4 making his theatrical debut, add special meaning to the production.

“The dignity of the minority can be destroyed by the prejudice of the majority, which can happen in our daily lives. This is why a work written in Argentina in 1976 can still have a message for us,” said director Park Je-young.

Park said he watched over 10 Broadway shows dealing with sexual minorities to think about how to portray Molina.

“Rather than directing the actors to explicitly and physically express femininity, I wanted them to embody the ‘feeling’ of being a woman.”

“Kiss of the Spider Woman” runs until March 31 at the Yegreen Theater in Daehangno.