Saturday, November 23, 2013

"Our Planet": a new Japan Society commission

Jenny Seastone Stern ("Luna") in Our Planet
(photo by Julie Lemberger)
You get dizzy, you get dazzled, you get giddy.
--from Yukio Shiba's Our Planet

For each performance of Our Planet, audiences--each thirty people only--hike all over Japan Society's midtown East landmark building for ninety minutes. They stand and perch in public and private spaces amid music and startling animated projections as they follow the long (really, really long), developing relationship between two playful neighbor kids. Okay, what if I were to tell you that those kids are Earth (Terri) and the moon (Luna); that neighborhood, the cosmos; and that relationship a matter of life (all life) and death (of stars and pretty much everything)? Intrigued yet? You should be.

The powerful actor Julian Rozzell, Jr., who eventually plays the female Terri in a skirt wrapped around his pants, first greets the audience in the darkened lobby, dramatically backlit by the light of an open elevator. On his lips, Yukio Shiba's text zips past you in bursts of forceful and mercurial dazzle--catch and hold what you can--setting up your understanding of the birth of a universe that will teem with the massive and the microscopic, and of a planet that will host all human experience, thought, speech and feelings.

Like a Pied Piper, Terri takes her charges on a journey, integrating them into each new environment, also placing little tea light "stars" here and there, even in the little pools of the lovely indoor water gardens. Eventually, Terri leads her followers upstairs to encounter Luna, embodied by Jenny Seastone Stern, where begins an initially shy and then fervent friendship, one faithful even through distance, time and time's inevitable changes. Our relationship with the convincingly girlish Luna--and with the innards of Japan Society's home--also grows. You might even find yourself seated to tea at a family table where Luna speaks the entire communal dialogue. Stern brings vulnerability and lightheartedness to her role, drawing something of the same from Rozzell, Jr. Well matched, they are.

All in all, you can't help but get a little dizzy, a little dazzled, a little giddy. Happily, there are guides all around to help you watch your step.

Direction: Alec Duffy (Hoi Polloi)
Scenic design: Mimi Lien
Costumes: Becky Lasky
Lighting design: Jiyoun Chang
Music composition and sound design: Tei Blow
Motion graphics: Nobuyuki Hanabusa

No late entry. Be prepared to stand, walk up and down stairs and, at times, sit on little cushions or benches. You're encouraged to leave your coats and belongings at the coat check. I'd recommend keeping a light sweater with you: The building is fairly cool.

Running time: 90 minutes

Through December 8 (various dates/times). Due to audience-size limitations, a number of performances are already sold out. Click here for complete schedule details and ticketing.

333 East 47th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues), Manhattan

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