Saturday, June 18, 2022

Theatre: Beauticians and the Beasts

 miku, and the gods by Julia Izumi, Directed by Alyza Delpan-Monley, co-presented by Pork Filled Productions

This one left me confused. 

I'm not alone. The Lovely Bride and I always wait to get back to that car and start the drive home before discussing a play, mainly because we've had strangers dip into our discussions with their own insights (not a criminal offence, but not appreciated). And as we made our way down off the hill of West Seattle, she said, "That was ...." and she paused.

"Weird?" I said.

"Weird." She repeated almost immediately. "Nice costumes though."

And it was weird. More performance than play, it was narratively frustrating. It started strong, but threw me off the path about forty-five minutes in and I never quite recovered. Even now, I have a hard time describing what the play was ultimately about.

OK, here goes for a summary: Miku (Lola Rei Fukushima) is a brilliant 12-year old who lost her brother in an accident in a river. Determined to fix an unjust world, she seeks out the One Who Is Wise (NEVE), an acid-tongued beautician to find out how to become a god. She also encounters Ephraim (Ben Symons) who wants to become an Olympic-level swimmer. Seeing connection between Olympians and Olympians, she recruits Ephraim to help in her god-quest. Meanwhile, Miku's grandmother Seiko (Naho Shioya) is dealing with dementia, aided by Shara (Sherif Amin), who is a minor god of Beauticians and War. Or maybe just a beautician. We're not quite sure.

And that's about as far as I can go before I get kinda confused. I am not sure exactly who the story is about and whether it is real or in one of the characters' headspace. There is interpretive dance. There are announcements. There are muffled announcements, and I'm not quite sure if that was intentional. There is a strong feeling if these characters are the characters they have declared themselves to be, or are gods, or mortals, or memories. The play has good bits, but defies me to put them together in a coherent order. Which, since they are talking about gods and mythology, may be part of the point. The play ends softly, and again, I am not sure that it has ended, except for an announcement that "The Play Has Ended." But has it ended? Really?

The actors are great, committing to characters that are over the top gods and super heroes - you know, maybe. Fukushima had been at the Arts West previously, and brings that same direct energy into holding the center together here. The stage is minimalistic and effective, bringing the question of where are we to the front. 

But ultimately is does not bring me anywhere close to enlightenment or closure or comprehension. Gods, death, memories, all sort of get thrown up at once. That's cool. Some forms of art don't engage at a cerebral level or an emotional level, but rather at a quasi-mystic feeling. Ballet and poetry come to mind, which are spider-webs, beautiful but incredibly delicate, unable to withstand a harsher examination. I didn't hate it. I was just puzzled and frustrated by it. The play ultimately feels like it is still trying to figure out what it is.

Nice costumes, though.

More later