Flashback Friday - - *Kafka On the Shore,* 2015
Notify Hallmark: July 3rd is Franz Kafka's 134th birthday! Clearly they need to do a greeting card to celebrate. I'm highlighting a review from a couple of summers ago, a strange play in Japanese, *Kafka On the Shore.* Not a fun night at the theatre, but the review is kind of hilarious. If I may say so myself.
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I saw this play at the Lincoln Center Festival with Liz and Tom on 7/23. It’s a stage adaptation of the book by Haruki Murakami. Liz has read lots of his books, is a big fan - - I’ve just read *The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle*, which I loved, so I was game. Plus how many opportunities do you get in this town to see a play in Japanese?
It was at the David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, previously known as the State Theater, home to the late New York City Opera. It looked like it was sold out, and the theater was a-buzz with anticipation. The opening was stunning: lots of large objects in glass boxes, slowly rolling around the stage - - trees, a truck, a bus, a young woman in a blue silk dress. All of this accompanied by mournful music. Hypnotic.
The first scene was about a 15-year old boy having a conversation with an adult man with an ambiguous identity, after which the boy decides to run away. Then a scene back in 1945, where a young woman tells a policeman about the catastrophe that happened on a school trip she was leading. Later in the show she told the whole story, which was a mix of a) the supernatural, b) what I perceived to be a uniquely Japanese mixture of horror and shame, and c) a most unfortunate menstrual incident. This was the highlight of the show.
After that it got really boring. I passed the time by visualizing myself leaving the theater and buying a vanilla ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles. We saw the 15-year old boy speaking with a girl he met on the bus. An old man speaking with various cats, played by full-size human actors (who talked) in cat costumes. A vanilla ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles. The show was occasionally amusing or dramatic, and often beautiful to look at, but didn’t really deliver. And I got pretty tired of that mournful music. I decided the show was either a book or a movie, but it was NOT a play. A vanilla ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles.
The finale of the first act featured the 15-year old boy on the left side of the stage, doing a long monologue about Adolf Eichmann. This was interspersed with the scene on the right side of the stage - - the old man who had been talking to the cats had an involved scene with another old man, this one named Johnnie Walker and costumed like Johnnie Walker. Johnnie Walker was asking the other old man to kill him and put an end to his killing spree. He’s been capturing cats, drugging them, and cutting off their heads. We see a refrigerator filled with cat heads. Naturally it’s in one of those rolling glass boxes. The house lights came up to the strains of “Mi chiamano Mimi” from *La Bohème*.
I told Liz and Tom I was leaving. They were staying. Liz told me the next day that the second act (which was better than the first) featured Colonel Sanders as a pimp, so it's a shame I missed that, but you can’t have everything, right? I walked to Columbus Circle and bought a vanilla ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles.