on: Wednesday, December 11, 2002
UH production brings Japanese
kyogen style to English audience
Advertiser Theater Critic
Continuing its tradition of presenting
English-language productions of traditional Asian
theater styles, the University of Hawai'i offers
"Kyogen: Laughter for All Time" on the Kennedy Theatre
||'Kyogen: Laughter for All
Kennedy Theatre, University of
p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
$12, $10, $8, $3
Kyogen has a 600-year-old history of providing
comic balance to the serious Japanese noh theater, with
stock characters, simple stories and an emphasis on
vernacular dialogue. They are short farces that
alternate with or are included within the noh dramas to
provide comic relief. Movement is less stylized and
costumes can be complex, but are far less elaborate than
those used in noh. The actors are mostly unmasked and
appear without orchestra.
This is the university's first all-kyogen
production, a collection of three short plays translated
and directed by Julie Iezzi, featuring a cast of
students trained by master teachers Akira Shigeyama,
Yasushi Maruishi and Doji Shigeyama.
Sandra Finney coordinates the costumes and Kelly
Berry designs a simple wooden platform set with stylized
accents that include Christmas elements in final play.
The performances are double cast with actors appearing
on alternate nights. According to their master teacher,
they have learned their parts well.
you can't attend one of the pre-performance
lecture/demonstrations, perhaps the best way to prepare
is simply to empty your mind of all preconceptions. Let
the performance stand alone and allow the simple
comedies to unfold.
The first two plays pit scheming servants against
their suspicious masters.
"Tied to a Pole," the master ties up two servants to
keep them from drinking his sake while he is away for
the day. The ingenious rascals nevertheless find a way
to get into the liquor and their increasing
incapacitation is a source of delight.
The plot of "The Snail" is more obscure, and one
senses that it might be a 14th- century Japanese
precursor of Abbot and Costello's routine, "Who's on
The last play centers on a henpecked husband, his
dominating wife, and his furious mother-in-law. When he
takes too long to finish the laundry, the women prepare
a list of all his tasks.
"Do you mean, if it's not on the list, I don't
have to do it?" he asks. When the wife falls into the
river, he dutifully scans the list and refuses to lift a
That's a situation that even Archie Bunker could
"Kyogen: Laughter for All Time" offers a quiet
and gentle respite from a busy holiday