I’ve always known that I have the ability to get around…anywhere. Although I don’t hold the best track record of late when it comes to navigational techniques in the Garden State (which I find weird, who knew?), I’m definitely confident in my skills in NYC. If I couldn’t figure out, I would eventually. The peninsula is a perfect cacaphony of cultures and spaces and locales vivid and rich in its complexity, but the streets are numbered, for Pete’s sake. Oddly enough though, one needs to have the following (to navigate properly): time and money. So my friend and colleague, Isis had invited me to go see her in the play, “A Thousand Years Waiting”.
Uptown, not Downtown Dummy:
The first mistake faux pas I made was going Downtown. It’s no small matter when trying to avoid the rush-hour traffic of legend, but we managed just as fat robust girls do: we stopped at a coffee shop. This naturally reminds me of my sister, Florav’s video which you should definitely be watching. As we sipped our Lattes, we realized that we needed to go Uptown. Still, I managed to get us on a downtown train again and had to once again make the switch, but thankfully, we made it to the right place.
A Thousand Years Waiting (for the use of the toilet):
Restrooms are already scarce enough as it is in good ole NYC. Women’s restrooms are even more so. Still, I managed to go first while Florav waited, but Florav couldn’t take it when she was bumped by two other women who saw that she was waiting, but ran in anyway. Ah, NYC hospitality. You snooze, you lose, son. Or, in this case: sis.
Now onto the Review:
OK, the beginning was slow. But, the overall theme of female longing spanning thousands of years and beyond, did hit home. The play follows a young woman in NYC who stumbles upon a diary in a public library of a Japanese woman who had lived 1000 years ago.
A full production, the set consisted of a small, black coffee table and a folded dressing screen/panel. Whomever worked on the lighting was very skilled because the lighting truly was flawless.
The scene opens with Lady Sarashina in Kyoto who is struggling with dramatic life changes at a young age: her mother leaves her, she and her sister are moved to Kyoto to be raised by their stepmother, and her grandmother and cat die. Despite all of the change, the diary describes the fanciful views of a child coping with these changes. Lady Sarashina is lucky in that she does have the companionship of her sister to get through it all. The modern woman begins to see the parallels between her own life and that of Lady Sarashina. Both women cope by delving into fantasies and romance (namely, soap-opera vignettes called the Tales of Genji). At the age of 22, however, it is clear that Lady Sarashina must leave behind these ideals of begin saved by a man and enter into the very serious (and daunting) world of adulthood.
The entirety of the play is fluid moving from the childhood remembrances of Lady Sarashina who is now an old woman reflecting on her life in retrospect. She muses over the games that she and her sister played watching the dancers dance; participating with them in a dance that both had invented to celebrate their own youth. When the dancer of their childhood comes to life, played wonderfully by Brittany Bowchow, the audience is drawn into a commentary about youth. I loved the simplicity of the dance. The music playing in the background was not overstated at all. There was a great use of the space as Lady Sarashina moves her buddha figurine from one side of the sparse stage to the other, also symbolizing her new home. There are some beautiful moments where, while under the lamplight at the foreground stage-left, Lady Sarashina makes fun of her naivete on male attention.
Now, let’s begin with the negatives (’cause there aren’t that many):
- Lui Konno stumbled over her lines a little in the beginning and her initial performance was kind of staccato. This didn’t help the production. However, her perseverance to fight through her forgotten lines made up for the foible.
- Isis King has a strong jaw and a bold, clear voice. These were actually negatives which she needs to work on when performing. You believed her as both the regal Lady Lavender and the nanny, but lost her as the gentlemen. Softness is key.
- I didn’t like the fact that Hyojin Park didn’t play all of the male roles. I believed her so heartily as Prince Genji, that to switch of to Isis seemed to lose the audience. If a break was necessary for the actor, then I would’ve gone with a mask or kabucki puppet to symbolize the uncaring male courtiers who arrived to woo Lady Sarashina.
- Isis is not a good man. That’s a wonderful compliment if you’re not planning to be an actor. Unfortunately, Isis has her goals. She needs to be in touch with her masculinity. I would’ve been satisfied with seeing Hyojin Park in all the male roles, because Hyojin did such a great job at this. My advice? Check out another strong-jawed female: Hilary Swank. Just see, “Boys Don’t Cry” and you’ll know what I mean.
Now onto the great parts:
- “Inhale, there is a pine scent deep within your soul. When you exhale, your death.”
- There was a great fluidity of the movement to acting to lighting and back.
- Great use of prop: the handkerchief as both the kitten (Lady Sarashina’s pet 1000 years ago) and squirrel (modern woman in NYC)
- Wonderful universal feminine ideas of love: When I’m not with you do I cease to exist? Do you keep me close?
- “I’m old at twenty” is another common thread that endeared me to the characters. What woman hasn’t reached a plateau in her life where she asks that very question? It is wonderful in that it poses this inquiry several times as Lady Sarashina is discovering herself and her views of the world.
- This group of young actresses all made me feel the sadness and loneliness of loss and longing. The progression of Lady Sarashina is subtle but thorough as she is coming to her own realizations of what details in her past to record in her diary.
- The incorporation of dancing was some of the most touching as I’ve seen in a long time. The play allows you to see life through this young woman’s eyes; first as a fanciful fantasy of youth: detailing fantasies with Prince Genji and then as an insightful send-off to describe the loss of her sister. In the beginning of the play, you are celebrating the young girlish youth. In the end of the play, it is used as a mournful transition, the inevitable vehicle to fantasize her sister’s death.
Overall, my sister and I couldn’t help but cry our eyes out. This coming-of-age story was much more than just a tale. It implies reincarnation and the universality of feminine themes that cross a thousand years still poignant and true. It is the reason why Shakespeare is still relevant. It is the tie that binds us to one another no matter where we came from. There is a sadness in all of us who have “wanted and waited” a decade, an age, a millenia for a play to be true and honest. That’s what’s so great about watching a play. As Shakespeare once wrote: “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience–” It is an exchange. As a viewer, we want to connect and see our lives reflected, nay re-enacted in such a way that it seems satisfying that we spent a better part of the evening trying to get there; navigating through the snake-like subways. All of it revealed to us in the dark. Our darkest secrets revealed. And applauded.