By Shari Goldstein Stern
Don X. Nguyen was ecstatic at Kalita Humphrey Theater Thursday night following the world premiere of “The Supreme Leader.” Nguyen said that he began penning the colorful play seven years earlier. He beamed when expressing his joy at premiering the show with local treasures, the Dallas Theater Center (DTC) and its former home, Kalita. It was a unique tribute to DTC’s and the city’s rebound to live theater during a worldwide pandemic.
An accomplished artist, Nguyen said he was thrilled to see many of his Dallas friends opening night. When a young playwright from Saigon, Vietnam has acclaimed Dallas superstars like Liz Mikel and Jonathan Norton singing his praises following the premiere, you know he has a continuing bright future at his fingertips. By reading his biography, rest assured he has earned the accolades.
The comedy, or as one might experience it, the spoof introduces teen-aged Kim Jong-Un during his senior year at a boarding school in Switzerland before returning to North Korea to face his firmly planned future.
Portraying an imagined, teenage version of North Korea’s bizarre leader Kim Jong-Un, Oscar Seung brought the role to life. He characterized the young Kim as someone who, while growing up in America, never felt he fit in. He lived in a Western culture, growing up as a typical kid who grew into a most complicated, bizarre world leader.
According to Seung: “I know exactly what that’s like to suddenly be in a place where the expectations are different, the dress is different, the language is different, for heaven’s sake. I understand what it is not to fit the mold.”
Kim is conflicted over his father’s expectations as communicated by his “minder,” portrayed starkly by Albert Park, and Kim’s quirky, American friend Sophie.
“Your entire life has been basically decided. The second he was next in line, that was it,” the lead actor said. Seung expressed the question all of us must deal with: Do we spend our lives fulfilling societal and familial expectations or do we become self-aware enough and perhaps strong enough to ask the questions: What do I want? Who am I? Am I brave enough to defy expectations and go after what I really want in life?
In addition to being an experienced actor, Dallas-based Seung is a classically trained violinist, pianist, operatic baritone and music director who studied opera at SMU. The leading man was eight years old when his family moved to Arlington, Texas in 1993. Born in Lausanne, Switzerland of Chinese descent, the talented artist is fluent in English, French, Cantonese and Mandarin.
The stage actor has appeared in many feature films and series since 2012 including “American Dynasty,” “Black Clover,” and “We Can be Heroes” and has many credits in anime and voice-over work.
The new friend on which Kim was sent to spy, Sophie, was just perky enough to engage the shy, cautious Kim in conversation eventually. Portrayed effectively by McKenna Marmolejo, Sophie couldn’t have been more opposite from Kim, and yet they developed a warm, close friendship. Houston’s Marmelogo, in addition to a pilot series with Nathan Lane, has an extensive cache of credits including, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and others at Houston’s Alley Theatre; “Bring it On: the Musical” at Theatre under the Stars,” and many others.
Garrett Weir and understudies Mark Tam Quach, Christopher Llewyn Ramirez and Ashlie Whitworth round out the ensemble cast of this quirky little comedy about a quirky little man.
“The Supreme Leader” runs now through November 21 at Kalita Humphrey Theatre, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. in Dallas. For tickets and information, visit dallastheatercenter.org or call 214-522-8499.