April 23, 2004


This weekend's offering at the Studio Theatre is Jeff Hendrickson's Pika-Don (ピカートン). Jeff is a student here at Knox---I've seen him in a couple other theatrical productions---and he's made excellent use of the Studio Theatre facility to produce this play.

The title of the play refers to the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima ("Pika" being a bright flash of light and "Don" being onomatopoeic, the word was coined by Hiroshima residents shortly after the attack). A surprisingly powerful device used in this play is that the scenes taking place in Hiroshima are conducted entirely in Japanese, in the style of Noh theatre. Oddly enough, I feel that the language barrier was not nearly as much of a problem as my lack of familiarity with the conventions of the Noh form; it is highly stylistic form that makes use of gestures to convey various emotions. Even despite all that, I was impressed with how expressive a mostly-mute foreign-language masked character could be. Both Jeff and his co-star, Sylvie Davidson, showed a good presence and understanding of movement---I was reminded several times tonight of Sylvie's performance last term as the mad Cassandra, where she nailed the unnerving dance of an insane prophetess without looking either choreographed or like she was just flailing around. That body control appears to have served her well in learning the surely-unfamiliar motions of Noh.

The Japanese scenes alternate with scenes in English, taking place in modern New York, with just-out-of-college kids (played by the same two actors as in the Noh scenes, with costume changes between) doing the thing young urban folks do---trying, with mixed success, to find work and make ends meet. As I read up on the Noh form, I'm discovering that even these follow it after a fashion---the stylised Noh plays are usually interspersed with more dialogue-ful interludes called Kyogen. The percussive music and even the stage design seems to have all been at least inspired by Noh.

Pika-Don presents a newer perspective on the tragedy of Hiroshima and tries to address the fact that already people have "begun to forget the horror we inflicted on ourselves just over 50 years ago." I hope that someone out in the world takes note of this play; the skill set required of the actors is somewhat unique and demanding, and it will always fall into something of a niche market, but I do hope that it gets wider distribution than just Knox College; it'd be such a shame if it didn't.

"Aaah, you can take a 'venti' razor and shove it up your ass, you 'tall'-brained moron." --Foamy Squirrel

Posted by blahedo at 11:02pm on 23 Apr 2004
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