October 26, 2022
Ako Dachs really does it all! The founding artistic director of theater company Amaterasu Za is the director, script adaptor, costume designer, and a performer in "Chushingura -
47 Ronin" presented at A.R.T./New York Theater’s Mezzanine Theater.
The play, a thick political intrigue about the pursuit of justice in the face of a corrupt
government takes place on a bare stage, allowing the actors to conjure up the serene gardens and
rooms separated by invisible thresholds with their words and subtle lighting.
By contrast the
costumes are lushly textured, traditional ensembles of wrapped fabric that mark each new
character’s status even if the actor is familiar, as the ten performers take on many roles. The cast,
made up of entirely New York-based Japanese actors is well assembled, each bringing to the stage
the intensity of the historical drama.
With a tightly paced script each scene steadily drives the
plot towards the promised end which, reflecting the very real history of early 18th century Japan,
is apparent from the outset but nevertheless satisfying to watch unfold.
Holding the storytelling together is Dachs as she takes the position of the narrator, a
woman named Riku, who speaks in English to the audience between acts. She is the wife of
Oishi Kuranosuke: councelor to the Ako Asano clan whose lord was sentenced to death after an
altercation with the villainous Lord Kira.
The clan’s samurai plot their revenge, spending years
deciding the exact moment and manner to strike to return the Ako Asano name to honorable
renown. When the day finally comes, the titular 47 ronin lay siege upon the house of Lord Kira
in an exquisite bout of fight choreography by Kyo Kasami.
As the nine ensemble members
portray all 47 samurai and their opponents in a flurry of entrances and exits, bringing the
audience to the edge of their seats as Oishi’s son is wounded in the battle. But once their revenge
is exacted on Lord Kira the honorable samurai must commit sepuku, an honorable ritual
suicide, and ascend in Japanese legend.
A large part Amaterasu Za’s mission is bringing Japanese theatrical traditions to wider
audiences, English and Japanese-speaking alike, and in that "Chushingura - 47 Ronin" is a wild
success. Whether the audience is well versed or entirely new to Japanese theater they’re certainly
in for a treat.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele