Our Planet

by Ed Malin · November 22, 2013

Playwrights on New Plays #18Ed Malin comments on  Our Planet a production of the Japan Society's 60th year anniversary season

For its 60th Anniversary season, The Japan Society presents a site-specific  English-language version of Our Planet by Yukio Shiba, directed by Obie Award-winner Alec Duffy.  This is piece wherein the audience is guided through various spaces on six floors of the landmark Japan Society building, mostly in delightful shadows.

The cast consists of Julian Rozzell, Jr. as "Terri" and many others, and Jenny Seastone Stern as "Luna" and many others.  One might think of the scenes where one actor plays all the roles in an examination of everyday life as, well, postmodern.  Then, someone is running barefoot through an immaculate lily pool, or the lights go down and a planetarium light show is shining across the audience's faces, and the fragile, planetary nature of Terri and Luna is revealed.

We had not seen Terri for a few scenes, and had followed Luna into a stairwell, when she got a surprise phone call from the edge of the universe.  This was achieved by having Terri stand out two floors up and yell down at her.  This kind of creative maneuvering continued into conference rooms, office cubicles, the library, and even behind the curtain on the Japan Society's lovely stage.

In the end (and as the somber dialogue veered onto the topic of the death of planets it felt like an end) I was left feeling quite relieved at the size and luminosity of the universe, snippets from the original Japanese production were then shown.  It had lots of dancing and singsong voices.  If you have seen Alec Duffy's work with the group Hoi Polloi, the liberatingly nebulous tone of this production is not surprising.  It all added up to an amazing journey.  Jiyoun Chang's lighting design helped the space seem much bigger and more foreboding.  Nobuyuki Hanabusa's motion graphics were projected on elevator banks, gallery walls and more, with stunning effect.





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