Last Sunday, Ins Choi graced the Redeemer stage armed with nothing but a suitcase full of props, a homemade streetlight and a penchant for making people laugh. By way of introduction, he recalls that, when he was five, his mother had predicted that he would be a preacher-man. To which he replied: “No! I want to be a ninja!”
Subway Stations is the product of a series of interactions that Choi has had with homeless people on the street—all written, produced and performed by the man himself.
The story goes that while he was a young actor in an NYC subway station, he met a homeless man with a speaker attached to his chest. The man caught his eye, stared right at him and said the phrase that he now uses to begin his performance: “God is calling you…!”
“Jesus was a man who was essentially homeless in his ministry.”
Choi comes to us costumed in dirt and rags. He pulls on a wig that looks like it hasn’t seen soap and water in weeks. After he wraps a tie around his head, he bruises his eyes with eye-shadow and liner, transforming into the perfect stereotype of homelessness in front of our eyes.
He finally produces a horn from his pants-pocket. The sound it emits is loud, long and ponderous. The lights go completely out until all we can see is him, illuminated by his single street-light. The play begins.
Choi may not be a preacher-man like his mother had predicted, but his message is a twenty-first century call to repentance. He tells his story, with a gravelly voice and ukulele, through spoken word poetry and song. In his poem-song “Repent”, Choi calls the audience to not just prepare, but repair, the way of the Lord and turn away from the kind of lifestyle that displeases God. In “Birkenstock Jesus”, Choi asks: what would Jesus be like if He came to earth right now? Would Jesus wear Birkenstocks or Crocs? And, what would Jesus think about the way we treat our fellow-man, especially those without homes or funds?
At the talkback, he cited that his inspiration to use a homeless man as a character onstage stemmed from his musing that Jesus was a man who was essentially homeless in his ministry. Now, he said, it is the homeless who are calling us, clean and comfortable in our relative wealth and well-being, to salvation and repentance.
Subway Stations of the Cross poses interesting questions about our ways of living. It is a show that gives dignity and a voice to the homeless people we tend to disregard. Choi encourages us, through his performance, to demonstrate faith, hope and love, not just to the people we are comfortable with, but also to those we can overlook.