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Saturday, February 7, 2009

chelfitsch Theater Company at Japan Society

And while we're on the subject of Japan Society...

Toshiki Okada's movement-rich chelfitsch Theater Company closes its too-brief run tonight at Japan Society with a 7:30 performance of Five Days in March. Written and directed by Okada, this 2004 work fractures and complicates a banal, meandering narrative of clueless young Japanese hipsters and their five-day sexual marathon, set against the faint, distant backdrop of Bush's relentless drive towards invasion of Iraq.

The performance runs a longer-feeling 90 minutes with an intermission. It's spoken in Japanese with supertitles (translation by Aya Ogawa).

The slacker style of storytelling--as reproduced by Okada and Ogawa--is deeply lulling, and you might get a little lost as the actors continually flow in and out of character. I'd advise not getting terribly caught up in the supertitles and their flattened narrative and missing the sound of the Japanese or the remarkable accumulation of the physical elements of this theater. These are good reasons to stay alert.

The movement--starting so small, so naturalistic and subtle, you think it's just a few physical tics--gradually becomes riveting. After a long while of focusing on the words, I gave up and gave my attention over to the movement. Although it has no literal bearing on the storyline, it speaks for and of itself, depicting something of the bodily underpinning of character. It is lit in suitably shifting tones, luscious and perfect.

Okada's talented troupe includes Taichi Yamagata, Hiromasa Shimonishi, Kohei Matsueda, Tomomitsu Adachi, Riki Takeda and two women actors--the performers I found most interesting--Luchino Yamazaki and Izumi Aoyagi.

Five Days in March concludes tonight at 7:30pm. For ticketing, call 212-715-1258 or visit Japan Society.

Japan Society
333 East 47th Street (between First and Second Avenues)

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