Seen /By Everyone

Theatre of Yugen’s “Seen / By Everyone” is All That and More

By George Powell

According to the play’s director, so many s-words are needed to describe what the Theatre of Yugen productions encompass. And after “Seen/By Everyone” I’d add “savvy” to the list that includes (in director Nick Ishimaru’s own words) “satirical, saccharine, silly, sentimental, sociopathic, scattered, spectacular and satisfying.”

Indeed, this unique play is easily all that and more, a theatrical experience that uses the stage, the actors and the Noh tradition to construct a special, unusual evening’s entertainment.

Noh Theater itself is over 600 years old and an enduring part of Japan’s cultural history. It’s part of the foundation of the Theatre of Yugen group, and infuses “Seen/ By Everyone” with that special Noh sensibility.

Seven actors perform for 90 minutes without intermission, and they all accomplish a lot in that short about time, with singing, choreographed movements, precision gestures and positioning necessary to deal with the complex story using the ancient, staid ritualism of Japanese Noh and making it accessible to a 21st-century audience.

With all that background, add in the mix a large amount of found text from today’s all-pervasive social network, concerning relationships and a person’s very existence.

The action all takes place in a sparse bar setting, populated with people both deceased and alive, but yet interacting through the connections of found text from the social media milieu.

Maggie (Adrian Deane) fills the difficult role of spirit who remains ever-present thanks to her still-existing social media presence.

The Bartender (Enormvs Munoz) serves as a kind of facilitator for the interactions of spirit Maggie who rhythmically repeats only eight lines in different sequence and impact all derived from her ever-existing social media posts.  He also interacts, serves drinks and symbolically “shares” with the five other grieving cast members.

All seven performances are lively, vibrant and credible, and Elizabeth (Annika Bergman) was particularly effective with her sassy persona emphasizing the self-centeredness of that character.  She never misses the opportunity to take a selfie with her selfie stick.  

The lighting (Brittany Mellerson) and sound (Ella Cooley) are very important to the total production and like the other stage components, were carried off with careful attention and effectiveness on opening night of their West Coast premiere.  It was performed in New York City by Five on a Match in 2016.

The small space occupied by the Theatre of Yugen makes for an intimate, intellectually stimulating theater experience.

The Japanese word “Yugen” means tranquil, profound and mysterious, all together at once. “Seen/ By Everyone” is certainly all of that, as well as entertaining in an untraditional, rewarding way. This theatre critic recommends “Seen / By Everyone” for anyone looking for something that is unique, thought provoking, and aesthetically pleasing to the ears and eyes.   

“Seen / By Everyone” presented by Theatre of Yugen and Five on a Match will run until October 21, 2018 (Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm / Sundays at 4pm). 90-minutes with no intermission. Located at NOHSpace in San Francisco. For tickets and information, visit: www.theatreofyugen.org