Hanjo and The Lady Aoi
(Note: Last week, we published a review of this collection of plays. We are reviewing it again to reflect the new cast.)
Noh is one of Japan’s great cultural treasures – an ancient, highly codified theatrical style blending ritual, song, comedy, and drama. Children of Noh actors would begin their apprenticeships early and dedicate their lives solely to their craft. Even today, true mastery of Noh requires years of study and discipline.
Yukio Mishima, the troubled nationalist and preeminent author of disaffected postwar fiction, wrote several modern reboots of classic Noh plays. While they dispense with codified gestures and masks and incorporate contemporary subject matter, the standards and respect afforded authentic Noh are ostensibly still upheld. The Luna Playhouse production of Mishima’s work, previously lauded, has fallen prey to a problematic cast change.
Luna’s program features two Mishima plays, Hanjo and The Lady Aoi, bookending two smaller pieces, Oboro-Zukiyo (a fan dance and song), and Hana-Ko, a Kyogen (traditional light comedy). Oboro-Zukiyo, performed as a solo by Alpha Takahashi, represents the best of the four pieces, showcasing Takahashi’s considerable talents in fan manipulation.
Hanjo, about a suitor trying to pry a former Geisha away from a jealous woman, manifests as a patchwork of flubbed lines, affectation, and staginess. Stepanian’s static direction has actors standing stock-still for minutes at a time, reciting their lines, and then moving mechanically to their next bit of blocking.
The remaining acts offer no reprieve – Hana-Ko is embarrassing in its total lack of humor and The Lady Aoi filled with histrionics and stilted line deliveries. Perhaps the alternate cast, still advertised on the playbill, offers a different experience.
Luna Playhouse Presents: Two Plays By Yukio Mishima. Dir. Aramazd Stepanian; Toshi Toda. With: Ed Refuerzo, Grace Li, Irene Park. July 18 – Aug 1; Thurs, Fri, Sat 8:00 p.m.; Sun 3:00 & 7:00 p.m. 3706 San Fernando Rd., Glendale 91204 For tickets call (818) 500-7200 or visit www.itsmyseat.com.