Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Was critic awake at UH noh play?
by Larry Geller
UH students, with the assistance of faculty, visiting expert Richard Emmert, and professional actors Akira Matsui and Kinue Oshima, have put together what should be a remarkable theatrical experience—a Japanese noh play translated into English, and so made accessible to a non-Japanese audience.
Over the years, the UH Kennedy Theater has been essentially the only regular venue in the world for English-language kabuki plays, a remarkable and valuable achievement. Noh is something different. It came down from the top, so to speak, from the elite classes. Kabuki is more accessible to theatergoers since it was the theater of the common person.
To have noh performed in English is a new experience and a valuable cultural contribution. We are very lucky in Hawaii to be able to attend these performances. The East-West Center Gallery has an exhibit and has hosted a series of presentations on the masks, costuming and the history and conventions of the noh theater. The student actors were participants also in these presentations.
How did it all work out? We’ll be going on Sunday, so I was curious to read the review in today’s Advertiser. The critic notes:
The marketing material recognizes that the format may be difficult for an audience unfamiliar with its traditions, and gives the welcome permission that it is acceptable to nap during the performance. The slow pace assures that you won't miss much and, when you check back in, the characters are likely to be in the same places and holding the same poses.
I didn’t learn anything about the quality of the acting or staging from this review. How well did the students do? Did the critic even enjoy the performance? Or did he take advantage of the “permission” to nap through it all?
The main character alternates each night between a male and female actor. Which did Mr. Rozmiarek see? How was her or his performance? Not even a word about it in the review.
In reviewing Japanese drama it’s common to explain the play a bit and to describe the stage setting. But the information in this review could have come out of a textbook.
The student actors and Advertiser readers deserve better than this. If they did well, the actors have been cheated.
Perhaps there will be reviews elsewhere.