Note From Jon


Friday, February 8, 2008

Turning Japanese

Ah, Japanese Culture. All I can do is smile. The Japan! Culture + Hyperculture festival has descended upon the Kennedy Center and Mimsi and I decided to join Darren in checking out Shintoku-Maru (performed in Japanese...without supertitles).

The highlight of the evening turned out to be the pre-show exhibits we explored, especially Yayoi Kusama's Dots Obsession Installation which coated two rooms with black and yellow polka dots. Particularly in the yellow room, you feel like you are losing your balance. An installation of flying textiles and Asimo, the running robot, also kept us entertained until showtime.

As for the play itself, it felt like Oedipus goes to Japan, which is fine... if you're in to that sort of thing. I can usually find something to appreciate in any play and this was no exception. For example, I was impressed that none of the costumes burst into flames due to the shower of sparks that four power grinders were raining down on the stage during the opening and closing scenes. The grinders were an excellent effect and helped set the atmosphere of a chaotic city street.

Other scenes of note were the disturbing scene of the step-mother spanking her son, and the even more disturbing scene of the son dressing up as the step-mother and attacking his little step-brother... by ripping his shirt off and biting his neck. What was really twisted was that during both of these scenes the music suddenly becomes so cheery—and in the latter case comical dancers fill the stage—that you find yourself experiencing counterintuitive emotions.

The whole experience was reminiscent of watching Peer Gynt in Olso in 1994; strange things were happening in a language I didn't understand, but there were some powerful images (e.g. 14 years later I can still remember the first act of Peer Gynt taking place inside a set made to look like a motherboard, and I remember watching Peer scale the motherboard wall by climbing up the circuitry).

I'm sure some people enjoyed the show (Darren wanted to know what a Japanese person thought of it... but didn't ask) but I just hope it wasn't because they could relate to the characters. Here's the closing line of the synopsis (Alan Rickman reads this aloud before the play ever starts so I'm not the one ruining the ending here): "They finally acknowledge their love for each other and [the son] pleads with [his step-mother] to consummate this love, so that she may give birth to him, and hence become his real mother."

Note to Jon:
  • If you can figure out how to make the illegal turns we took from the Rock Creek Parkway up F St. (or can get to New Hampshire Ave. a more legal... *cough* boring... way) then get there shortly before 6:30 and the Saudi Embassy has two free spots reserved just for you... well as long as you drive blue Prii.

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