Monday, April 28, 2014


Theatre/Theater:  Jeff Murray and Nicolette Chaffey have been an active and important part of the Los Angeles Theatre Scene for many years.  I was reminded of one of the first shows directed by Jeff I’d seen in 1982 in a store front space on Melrose, CREEPS.  They have kept their various venues open for such a long time by filling a gap.  The choices for plays to present and to sponsor have always been varied and always entertaining, as well as being thoughtful pieces of theatre.  

The current production at the most recent incarnation of Theatre/Theater on Pico is  BURAI – Standing All Alone written and directed by Naoki Fujiyama. It tells a nineteenth century story set in  Japan  of a young man who must regain his family’s honor.  Extremely cinematic in its presentation with short scenes and blackouts, Fujiyama has assembled an excellent cast to tell what feels like a traditional tale presenting characters and ideas we in the West have mostly only experienced through the movies of Akira Kurosawa.  Highly stylized performances by the large cast of nineteen actors in excellent authentic nineteenth century costumes by Sueko Oshimoto, immerses the audience into another time; a completely different culture.  

As we learn patience and tradition in The Tea Ceremony, the meticulous attention to detail and style of the production take some getting used to.  Long pauses and ritual reflect the times, the 1800's. This is the sad story of Sadatora  (excellent Masa Kanome), the enforcer for the local shogun, Toshimasa Shigemori (Steve Huang). Sadatora is married to the beautiful Yuki (extraordinarily pretty Kyoko Okazaki) who is dying of consumption.    Love and honor permeate the telling as a proud and joyful father, Genzaburo Sugiyama and mother, Fumi Sugiama (Nobu Inbushi and Mie Aso) are assassinated by Sadatora at the order of the shogun. 

Honor being a cultural foundation at this time period in Japan, the sons of the slain parents one by one challenge the assassin unsuccessfully to avenge their murders. Concurrently, Sadatora finds his duties as enforcer under the thumb of the shogun more taxing on his spirit. With his wife slowly dying, the battles he is forced to fight with Genzaburo’s sons become challenging physically and emotionally.  Stage combat is fast, furious and extremely well done. 
In an interesting interstitial scene, Shigemori and his entourage are treated to one of the most impressive parts of the evening.  Geisha Mika Santo, in full traditional makeup and kimono presents a delicate dance that one may seldom see outside Japan. An interesting portrayal by Naoyuki Ikeda as Umesuke, a strange little man who was originally under the wing of the Sugiama Family, now loyal to the shogun adds a bit of wasabi to the mix.  

I missed the traditional hanamichi (ramp from the stage to off stage) probably because the set up of Theatre/Theater is not conducive.  Also absent were the presence of on stage musicians.  I also would have liked to hear the accompanying sounds of shakuhachi and wood blocks, though recorded music was appropriate. However, once we settle into the unique Eastern way that the play is intended, the swordplay is amazing and the characters all come to life in an even and thoughtful way. 
"Asahi and Japanese tea bags and soda in  unique little bottles (Ramune) are complimentary!"
Highly recommended.

BURAI: Standing All Alone
5041 W. Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 2PM
Through May 11, 2014  
Tickets and information:
323-7990-6110 (Kyoko Okazaki)
Ticket Site:
(Search for BURAI in Los Angeles Area)

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