Theatre of Yugen is excited to present Mystical Abyss, the culminating production of a career in which Japanese-born director Yuriko Doi has brought to the West a distinctive fusion of traditional Japanese dramatic arts and cutting-edge world theater. In this production, she returns to origins, plumbing both Japanese and American prehistory.
Izanagi and Izanami, husband and wife, create the Japanese islands and an assortment of deities. After Izanami dies in childbirth, the distraught Izanagi follows her to the Underworld, where he witnesses her frightening transfiguration, recoils, and thus invokes her rage. The Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu retreats into a cave in fear and indignation at the raucous antics of her brother, only to be lured back into the world by the redemptive power of Art. Interwoven with these Japanese stories is the Iroquois creation myth in which Sky Woman, hurled by her husband into an abyss in the glowing Sky Country, plunges through the dark where, with the assistance of animals anxious to curb her fall, she lands on a turtle to create the earth.
To help her tell and interpret these stories, Yuriko Doi has assembled a team of collaborators who are luminaries in their respective fields. John O’Keefe, celebrated American playwright, developed the script. Masashi Nomura, of the Kanze school of Noh, portrays the goddesses Izanami and Amaterasu, supported by Noh musicians Narumi Takizawa (flute) and Yoshio Ueno (drums). Mohawk dancers and singers Kenny and Roger Perkins are joined by Aztec mitote performance artist Cuauhtemoc Peranda and Mexican folkloric dancers Jesus Jacoh Cortes and Janelle Ayon. Catalan-American actor Lluis Valls narrates the story and personifies the turtle. Japanese CG animators Taketo Kobayashi and Koya Takahashi deploy thrilling images inspired by prehistoric Japanese Jomon art to complement Renta Kouchi’s set. And traditional Noh mask carver Hideta Kitazawa (nominee for the Bay Area Critics’ Circle award in 2011) is carving five masks for the production; so far one design is evocative of ancient Japanese Jomon-period artifacts, and another is an abstract tour-de-force based on the animators’ vision.
Mystical Abyss may evoke the past, but as the striking choreography, sound experiments, animation, and avant-garde storytelling emphasize, it is no exercise in nostalgia. Director Doi crowns her career with a moving exploration of the circumstances conducive to creation. We are living, Doi believes, at a crux in time demanding that we no longer turn rigidly away from what we dread or, worse, accuse others of the vices we deny in ourselves. Try as we might, as individuals and as societies, to “put the past behind us”—even to suppress those aspects of ourselves and our histories that we would rather not confront—it is only by embracing the whole experience of life, including our inner darkness, the relatedness of man and nature, and the inevitability of death, that we can create a healthier world as a legacy to our children.
Please join us at ODC Theater on September 27-30 for what promises to be an unforgettable show. Enter and explore the Mystical Abyss. Be inspired. Emerge reborn.
To buy tickets, call the ODC Theater Box Office at (415) 863-9834.