Saturday, March 05, 2016

Apollinaire Theatre Company Presents The Intriguing "Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise - Youth Is Not The Only Thing That's Sonic"

The current production at Apollinaire Theatre Company in Chelsea is the intriguing drama "Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise" by Toshiki Okada, with English translation by Aya Ogawa.  Mr. Okada's play is inspired by a traditional Japanese tale, The Legend of Urashima Taro.  Here is a thumbnail summary of the legend:

"One day a young fisherman named Urashima Tarō is fishing when he notices a group of children torturing a small turtle. Tarō saves it and lets it to go back to the sea. The next day, a huge turtle approaches him and tells him that the small turtle he had saved is the daughter of the Emperor of the Sea, Ryūjin, who wants to see him to thank him. The turtle magically gives Tarō gills and brings him to the bottom of the sea, to the Palace of the Dragon God (Ryūgū-jō). There he meets the Emperor and the small turtle, who was now a lovely princess, Otohime. On each of the four sides of the palace it is a different season.
Tarō stays there with Otohime for three days, but soon wants to go back to his village and see his aging mother, so he requests permission to leave. The princess says she is sorry to see him go, but wishes him well and gives him a mysterious box called tamatebakowhich will protect him from harm but which she tells him never to open. Tarō grabs the box, jumps on the back of the same turtle that had brought him there, and soon is at the seashore.
When he goes home, everything has changed. His home is gone, his mother has vanished, and the people he knew are nowhere to be seen. He asks if anybody knows a man called Urashima Tarō. They answer that they had heard someone of that name had vanished at sea long ago. He discovers that 300 years have passed since the day he left for the bottom of the sea. Struck by grief, he absent-mindedly opens the box the princess had given him, from which bursts forth a cloud of white smoke. He is suddenly aged, his beard long and white, and his back bent. From the sea comes the sad, sweet voice of the princess: "I told you not to open that box. In it was your old age ..."

In the Apollinare dramaturg's program notes, we read this quotation: "The princess had shut Urashima's life up in the box . . ." This phrase seems to perfectly capture for me the central message of this play: "Are we willing to allow ourself to be locked in a box - a TV, a computer screen, a room, a corporation, a job, a relationship. our limited imaginations, our fears, etc? Or, are we willing to listen to the voice inside of us screaming to be let out and to travel beyond quotidien boundaries and concerns?

Mr. Okada's play is set in the repressive corporate atmosphere of Japanese industry, yet this production takes this very particular setting, explodes it and makes it universal.  Each character begins the play sitting in front of a computer screen - a cog in a corporate machine.  Actor 1 (Trip Venturella) professes a desire to make something more of his life, and then confesses that it is a.ll a lie.  Over the course of the play, it becomes clear that each character is an interchangeable aspect of "Everyman/Everywoman," swapping roles as they represents various levels of consciousness and self-awareness. Due in part to Direction by Danielle Fauteux Jacques and the multi-ethnic casting, the tale does take on a universal application.  Becca A. Lewis, Deniz Khatreri, Paola Ferrer and Quentin James round out this five-person cast.  In the photo below, Becca A. Lewis sits in front of her "Box," a slack-jawed mouth breather going through the motions of working and living.  She represents the opposite end of the spectrum in which an earlier version of her character repeatedly bleats, "I want to travel."

Trip VenturellaPaola M. Ferrer Collazo,Becca A. LewisDeniz KhateriQuentin James
"Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise"
by Toshiki Okada
Apollinaire Theatre Company
Through March 13th
The play is a sort of journey in which the characters explore the quest for meaning and discover how honest they are willing to be with themselves and with one another.  The message is a prescription for us never to accept living "the unexamined life."
Scenic Design is by Nathan K. Lee, Sound Design by Ben Blier, and Costumes and Choreography by Susan Paino.

This production will run in Chelsea through March 13th.  I suggest that you crawl out of your tortoise shell, make the very doable trek to Chelsea, and join this fine cast as they lead you on a journey of discovery.



Apollinaire Theatre Website

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