The Black Lizard (黒蜥蜴)

  • 黒蜥蜴 (The Black Lizard)

1/27/18 (Sat), Tokyo

The latest rendering of Mishima’s overwrought, exceedingly talky but highly popular detective drama of 1962. I saw the traditional shingeki version ten years ago with the sleek villainess played by the legendary Miwa Akihiro, Mishima’s own choice for the film version (and supposed lover), and came out unsure whether I was seeing a serious rendering or a parody. This time was a new production by the celebrated British director David Leveaux, who, less tied to the old ways, would presumably be coming to the material with fresh eyes. I was also encouraged by good reviews by friends. The production was completely sold out throughout the run, but I managed to grab two day seats.

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New York (November 2017)

  • Junk, 11/16/17 (Thurs), Lincoln Center
  • Torch Song, 11/17/17 (Fri), Broadway
  • Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, 11/18/17 (Sat), off Broadway
  • Time and the Conways, 11/18/17 (Sat), Broadway
  • The Band’s Visit, 11/19/17 (Sun), Broadway
  • Brigadoon, 11/19/17 (Sun), Encores!

A brief visit to New York on the way elsewhere. Shows I missed this time included Dear Evan Hansen (tickets impossible to get in the lead actor’s final days) as well as Hamilton and Bruce Springsteen (tried half-heartedly and unsuccessfully for the lottery for both). I decided against the revival of M Butterfly, one of my favorite shows, when I heard that the author had added a part describing how the Chinese guy disguised his “package”, which sounded much too literal for a show about illusion. (And I didn’t need another apparent reference by Hwang to small Asian penises, an obsession he needs to overcome.)   Continue reading

Needles and Opium

  • Needles and Opium

10/10/15 (Sat), Tokyo, ¥7,500

A revival of Lepage’s breakout one-man show of 1995 – a reworking really, since it adds a character and evidently ups the technology factor considerably. I never saw the original, but any Lepage show is an event as far as I’m concerned, so I bought the tickets without knowing much about it (and despite the off-putting title).

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Premium tickets: Don’t bring us your poor

  • Premium tickets: Don’t bring us your poor

10/10/17 (Tues)

Add another exclamation point to Hello, Dolly! The NY Times reports that premium tickets to the mega-hit between now and the departure of superstar Bette Midler in January will go for an eye-popping $998. That “98” sounds like Walmart marking its prices just short of the next dollar mark, and it would be nice to think that the producers are embarrassed enough to want to avoid four figures. But we know, of course, that they don’t care a whit about what anyone thinks given the overwhelming demand and limited supply for their tickets (which will actually cost $1,009 with Ticketmaster’s usurious charges, reaching four figures anyway).

Once upon a time, the theater was at least nominally an egalitarian business: you stood in line, you got your tickets when your turn came around. You knew that everyone else in an orchestra seat paid the same as you did (other than perhaps discounted day seats). Black, white, male, female, American, foreign, tall, short: everyone had an equal chance at getting a ticket. Yes, scalpers always existed, and we all knew that the rich weren’t standing in any line for their tickets. But we could comfort ourselves with the knowledge that scalping at outrageous prices was at least illegal. Now it’s the producers themselves who are charging those prices, claiming that they’re being deprived of all that illegal money. Got it? Instead of finding ways to prevent illegitimate activity, they’ve simply made it legitimate.

They have every right to do so, of course; no one is forcing the public to buy tickets, and allowing supply/demand to determine prices is the very basis of capitalism. The limited supply of tickets has to be allocated somehow, and doing that through pricing is no less legitimate than though first-come, first-served, i.e., time vs. money. What that means in real life, though, is that like elsewhere in our society, the rich go to the front of the ticket line, and you, the not-rich, go to the back. The theatrical community no longer even pretends to be treating everyone equally. Fair enough. But when the largely left-of-center Broadway community goes on about diversity and the poor and undocumented immigrants and all that, their words ring awfully hollow.

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The Blind Minstrel Orin (はなれ瞽女おりん)

  • はなれ瞽女おりん (The Blind Minstrel Orin)

10/1/17 (Sun), New National Theatre, Tokyo

The eclectic puppeteer Taira Jo is back with a series of three adult-oriented shows performed over three days. All the dramas highlight women, making for a theme of sorts, though that’s the only thing in common among them. Yesterday was Medea, a revival of the excellent production I saw some years back, and tomorrow is a piece by the aggressively avant-garde Terayama Shuji. Today’s sounded like a safer bet. This story was originally a 1974 play, which was novelized the following year and made into a film by Shinoda Masahiro in 1977 under the name “Ballad of Orin”, which I have not seen. Taira again played all the roles, helped by three hooded kurogo stagehands.

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Ninagawa Macbeth

  • Ninagawa Macbeth

10/2/15 (Fri), Tokyo

This is Ninagawa’s revival of his first version of the show, the one that put him on the map internationally. The run was completely sold out before it opened on the strength of its considerable reputation.

The show was transported to Japan and set in the late 16th century just before strongman Tokugawa Ieyasu took power. It was somewhat off-putting to hear the Japanese soldiers call each other Macbeth and Malcolm and such – couldn’t they have worked in Japanese names somehow? – but the story holds up perfectly well in its new context. Even Lady Macbeth has plenty of evil female counterparts in Japanese dramas, especially Kabuki. The show is way too talkative and introspective for a full Kabuki treatment, where the emphasis would be on the action with only hints of Macbeth’s inner torments and such. But this samurai drama style proved a good fit.

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