When Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in 1843, a staggering 175 years ago, he never could have imagined his story would be produced and reproduced innumerable times on stage and screen, or read and seen by countless millions. Nor could he ever foresee his truly iconic holiday treat being reimagined yet again in Japanese theatre. This is exactly what Theatre of Yugen (in celebration of its 40th season) does in its thoughtful, intricate and magical presentation of “A Noh Christmas Carol.” Founder Yuriko Doi, utilizes the traditional Japanese theatre forms of Noh, Kyōgen, Kabuki and the avant-garde dance form Butoh to retell the Dickens classic.
This melding alone is quite a feat that Director Nick Ishimaru has accomplished, but there is yet another unique twist to this engaging production. Four of the five cast members are female, most of whom are playing male roles. Skruooji (Scrooge) is most ably performed by Simone Bloch, so convincing in demonstrating Scrooge-like traits the audience doesn’t for a moment stop to ponder that in this reimagining, that Skruooji is portrayed by a woman.
Also, superbly acted is Rachael Richman as the eye-catching Christmas Ghosts (Past, Present & Yet-To-Come), Mikah Kavita as the Women, and Ryan Marchand as the man in black (taken from Kabuki) who coordinates the staging as the intermissionless play continues.
This homogenization of traditional sex roles is carried throughout the production, with the only male actor being Steven Flores serving as Jacob Marley (Jakuebi). To see his Butoh-inspired dance contortions as Marley’s ghost is a real study in theatrical melodrama and stagecraft. As is most of the understated, yet quite effective staging, lighting and sound design, everything enhances the minimalist nature of the entire production.
Ishimaru describes, “The world of Noh is unlike anything we get to experience in Western theatre. It is a liminal space where spirits come and go, and the corporeal interact freely with the phantasmal. As a theatre form, it relies on physicalized conventions to contain this liminal space. As my teacher Yuriko Doi always says, Noh and Kyogen are about the art of the internal, rather than the external. The word “Yugen” itself describes an ephemeral beauty that is felt, not seen.”
For anyone who desires a unique and insightful holiday experience that will put them in a warmhearted mood, should definitely see Theatre of Yugen’s “A Noh Christmas Carol.” Get your tickets soon as many shows are already sold-out.
“A Noh Christmas Carol” presented by Theatre of Yugen will run until December 30, 2018. Fridays at 7pm, Saturdays at 2pm & 7pm, and Sundays at 4pm. Located at NohSpace – 2840 Mariposa Street – SF. For tickets visit: www.TheatreofYugen.org