'Dojoji: The Man in the Bell,' celebrates its 36th season
DEARDRA SHULER Special to the AmNews | 5/31/2013, 11:44 a.m.
"Dojoji: The Man in the Bell," presented by the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre at the Clurman Theatre (410 West 42nd St.), celebrates its 36th season with an interesting takeoff of a thought-provoking Japanese legend that has been told through several different versions of Japanese theatrical art forms. It's a play about two ill-fated lovers.
The play is presented as a new version of an old story in minimalistic form. Director Tisa Chang called upon the performance styles of Bunraku (aka Ningyo Joruri), a form of Japanese puppet theater that is often used in lover-suicide plays. Although there was no suicide, the storyline is about the lovers Kiyohime (Kiyo Takami) and Anchin (Toshiji Takeshima), whose love comes to an unfortunate end. Chang also employed other traditional art forms such as Kyogen and Noh, which employ a mixture of mimicry and humor.
Written by Ernest Abuba in collaboration with and choreographed by Sachiyo Ito, the play creates a Western form of "Romeo and Juliet," Japanese-style.
The story begins in Wakayama, Japan, in the year 929 A.D. A young monk named Anchin is on his way to the Dojoji Temple when he encounters a violent snowstorm. The audience finds our hero forced to seek shelter with the innkeeper Shoji, who has a beautiful daughter named Kiyohime. Knowing of his daughter's loneliness, the innkeeper tries to push the young people together, despite the fact that the young man was on his way to the Dojoji Temple to further his studies as a monk. Smitten with Kiyohime, Anchin is unable to contain his desire for her, and the two become lovers.
Love consumes the young couple, and before he knows it, Anchin has spent a year with Kiyohime. So enamored was he by her charms that time had stood still for him. When he finally awakes from her spell, Anchin realizes that he needs to get to the Dojoji Temple. His father had presented the temple with a new bell to replace the malfunctioning one. Anchin had been accompanying the bell, but got separated when he got lost in the midst of the winter storm. Seeing she is about to be parted from her lover, Kiyohime implores Anchin to stay with her, but she eventually accepts his promise to return.
Having arrived a year late to the temple, the monks (portrayed by Dinh Doan, Don Castro and John Baray) tease Anchin when he explains why he had been delayed. The head monk attempts to convince the very confused Anchin that there was no such innkeeper or innkeeper's daughter. The monks further state that throughout their travels, they had never come across the inn where Anchin insisted he had been. Nearly convinced he had dreamt his encounter, Anchin lets years pass before seeking out the inn once again. He finds Kiyohime patiently awaiting his return.
Kiyohime is delighted to see the return of her lover and is certain that they will wed. However, Anchin reminds her that he cannot break his religious vows. Instead of the marriage she envisioned, she is shocked to find that Anchin plans to return to the temple. Enraged, Kiyohime curses Anchin, pursuing him to the river, where he seeks out a ferry boat to return to the Dojoji Temple.
Hell has no fury like a woman scorned, and a demon rises out of Kiyohime as she seeks revenge against the man she loved. So intense is her passion for love and her hateful desire for revenge that Kiyohime's mission to punish Anchin crosses all boundaries of space and time, onward to the year 2013, where Kiyohime's hated for her lover has not abated. Can the modern monks do what the ancient monks could not and save Anchin from the demon terror Kiyohime had become? Will the sacred bell in modern times be able to protect Anchin? That is a question for the interested theatergoer to find out.
"DoJoJi: The Man in the Bell" runs through Sunday, June 9. For further information about the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, visit www.panasianrep.org.