Theatre Mirror Reviews - "BUNRAKU: The National Puppet Theater of Japan"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi


"BUNRAKU: THE NATIONAL PUPPET THEATER OF JAPAN"

“Datemusume Koi no Higanoko” (Oshichi’s Burning Love)
written by Suga Sensuke, Matsuda Wakichi and Wakatake Fuemi
first performed at the Kitahorie-no-shibai Theatre, Osaka, in 1773

Chanters … Toyotake Rosetayu; Takemoto Aikodayu
Puppeteer … Yoshida Seizaburo

Shamisen Musicians:
Toyozawa Tomisuke; Takezawa Dango; Toyozawa Ryouji

“Tsubosaka Kannon Reigenki” (Miracle at the Tsubosaka Kannon Temple)
written by Kako Chika
first performed at the Hikorokuza Theatre, Osaka, in 1887

Chanter … Takemoto Tsukomadayu

Puppeteers:
Ostao, the Wife … Yoshida Kazuo
Sawaichi, the Husband … Yoshida Tamame

Shamisen Musicians:
Takezawa Danshichi; Takezawa Dango

Percussion:
Mochizuki Tamenari Ensemble

Three seasons ago, The Japan Society of Boston showcased an evening of traditional Noh (drama) and kyogen (comedy) theatre; the Society has now hosted the opening of the 2007 Tour of BUNRAKU: THE NATIONAL PUPPET THEATRE OF JAPAN, the first major presentation in America since 1992 and its first appearance in Boston since 1984. An all-male art form that began in the 18th century, Bunraku features puppets that are three-quarters life size, each manipulated by three visible puppeteers and accompanied by an onstage narrator who chants the dialogue and musicians who perform on the banjo-like shamisen. The troupe enacted two classic love stories (the girl Oshichi risks execution to save her warrior-lover; the blind Sawaichi and his devoted wife Osato find salvation through their mutual sacrifice), along with a demonstration of Bunraku’s aesthetics and its puppets’ complex mechanisms. This was not an evening for children or tired businessmen: Western eyes were bombarded by ritual and artifice; Western ears, by piped and grunted declamation, the plunking of shamisen and stomping of feet --- but one soon thrilled to Oshichi’s ascent up an icy ladder to warn her lover and was moved by Sawaichi and Osato’s suicides and their joyous dance of redemption; as with the Noh and kyogen showcase, Time slowed down then gave way to the Timeless.

BUNRAKU: THE NATIONAL PUPPET THEATRE OF JAPAN will complete its 2007 tour at selected universities and cultural centers in Illinois and California, 6-20 October.

"BUNRAKU: THE NATIONAL PUPPET THEATER OF JAPAN" (2-3 October)
THE JAPAN SOCIETY OF BOSTON
Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (800) 233-3123

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide

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