Noh - Angels, Demons, and Dreamers
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Victoria Webb

If you’ve always wanted to take a trip to Japan but could never seem to afford it, Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater provides a reasonably priced alternative. Created and performed by Laura Jorgensen and Fred Curchack, Noh – Angels, Demons, and Dreamers takes you to fourteenth and fifteenth century Japan for a poetic journey that will leave you feeling more relaxed than any vacation. Through the mystical magic of Japanese Noh and Kyogen theater, you’ll be whisked away on a musical journey into the calming forces of nature and an inward journey that will tune you in to your mind, body and spirit.

“Long before the end of the sixteenth century, Noh theater had achieved a high degree of literary and dramatic distinction,” writes Donald Keene in his book Bunraku. “Its history could be traced back many years, and though its origins had certainly been humble, it was granted the protection of the shoguns in the late fourteenth century, and was subsequently recognized as an important and even indispensable adjunct of court life. The texts of the Noh plays, dating mainly from the early fifteenth century, were carefully preserved in beautifully inscribed books, and were studied by the nobles, some of whom appeared in private performances given for their own pleasure. Commoners had relatively few opportunities to witness performances of Noh by master actors, but the stories of the plays and the famous passages in the texts were widely known.” Kyogen are outrageous comic interludes usually performed in-between the more serious in depth Noh plays.

The dynamic theatrical duo of Jorgensen and Curchack transformed five of these classic plays into stories accessible to a modern Western audience, yet without losing their Asian magic. The live music, as in the original Noh and Kyogen dramas, is used more to punctuate and order a point or a silence rather than provide pleasing melodies.

The five plays include: Shunkan, the fable of a Zen Buddhist priest who is exiled on Devil’s Island; Kantan, a fairytale of a magic pillow that gives dreams of the future; Sotoba Komachi, the story of a legendary poetess, ninety-nine years old, who becomes possessed by her rejected lover’s ghost; Hagoromo, a fairytale about a fisherman who steals an Angel’s feather robe; and The Bird-Catcher In Hell, a hilarious farce about a bird-catcher’s encounter with the Lord of death. All five are beautifully done and leave you feeling like you just completed the deep relaxation at the end of a yoga class – you are relaxed yet invigorated with insights from another world.

For tickets or more information call (707) 763-8920 or visit www.cinnabartheater.org.

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