Green T Productions presents a unique blend of theater styles with its winter play, Tales of Rashomon, an adaptation of a Japanese classic. The play, directed by Kathy Welch, is on stage at Mixed Blood Theatre until January 3.
The play is adapted from two classic short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon” and “In a Grove.” The latter story was made famous in 1950 with Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon. The short story of “Rashomon” involves a servant and a thief who take refuge from the rain under the Kyoto Rashomon. The second story, “In a Grove,” revisits four accounts of the death of a Samurai.
Tales of Rashomon weaves the two stories together: a servant (Timothy Daly) stumbles upon a beggar woman (Natalie Wass) after seeking refuge under the gate of Rashomon, which in the 12th century was a place thieves hid and corpses were tossed. The beggar woman persuades the servant to read the scrolls she has stolen, which contain the tale of the Samurai murder. Three main players—a bandit (David P. Schneider), a Samurai (Ethan Xiong), and the Samurai’s wife (Rebecca Cho)—are supported by a chorus of five performers.
|tales of rashomon, playing through january 3 at mixed blood theatre. for tickets ($20) and information, see mixedblood.com.|
Each account is presented in a different style of Japanese theater, varying from verses spoken with exaggerated, humorous manner to a chanting, dancing chorus. The bandit’s account is the most straightforward telling, describing a sword fight between him and the samurai, and a sword dance by the samurai’s wife. The samurai’s account uses bunraku (Japanese puppet theater) to depict his suicide, where the final account, as told by a bystander, twists the players into foolish, everyday simpletons all involved an accident. The latter account exemplifies the existentialist idea of the absurd, where life has no meaning beyond what we give to it.
The tale becomes a thrill to hear, as the common servant and clever beggar offer plenty of asides in between accounts. The exchanges the pair shares offer the best moments in Tales of Rashomon as the two consider various dilemmas—those arising between the two and those arising within the Samurai tale. In the beginning, the beggar woman tells the servant she stole her garments from the corpse of a woman who sold snake meat to people, telling them it was fish. A con would surely understand life is all about survival. Thievery occurs in the other story when the bandit steals the wife of a Samurai. In complete honesty, the beggar declares, “Thievery is the most natural thing in the world.”
In the final moments of Tales of Rashomon, the beggar appears to contradict her prior lack of conscience, stating, “I’d like to think there’s a hero and a villain.” Reality is far too mundane to be the true account, so we need a good storyteller. But do we? As the players conclude in the end, this is all just testimony, and the two are simply under a gate, with nothing to be done, just waiting for the rain to let up.
|This event is featured in the Daily Planet’s complete guide to holiday theater. Throughout the holiday season, the guide will be updated with links to new Daily Planet reviews—so you know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.|