Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Vengeance Can Wait

According to playwright Yukiko Motoya, Vengeance Can Wait. But the punchline to her overlong play didn't make me feel like the wait was worth it. Truth is, with such a stiflingly dry comic style, the direction of the play comes as no surprise (even less, considering that the play opens in the middle of a climax). You know everything you need to know about the play, in fact, from an early scene in which Hidenori (Paul H. Juhn) drowns out his amicable roommate, Nanase (Jennifer Lim), by blowdrying his face. Every time Nanase gets a word in, she is lethargically cut down, and when Hidenori finally speaks, he turns a lesson in comedy into a series of koans. The two are perfectly matched, for his comedy is so deadpan that even the slightest strain on her part to emulate him becomes absurd.

But where do you take a relationship like that? In Motoya's case, nowhere. She can take us out of the stifling room -- to Hidenori's job as a state executioner, say -- but she can't change the temperature of the characters. It's no surprise that when Hidenori's excitable partner, Banjo (Pun Bandhu), can't bring himself to pull his switch, Hidenori just pulls both. Nor is it a surprise that Nanase, who is profoundly unwilling to disappoint others, is as likely to piss herself before leaving a guest as she is to let the guest rape her. With no surprises, and no real changes in character, Vengeance Can Wait becomes a comic waiting game, one which isn't actually all that funny. Mr. Juhn delivers on his marvelous voice -- not just with one-liners, but with one-worders -- and Mrs. Lim is talented enough to be verbally and physically self-effacing. But there's little for them to do with the puckish Mr. Bandhu or the pushy Azusa (Becky Yamamoto), except for the same old, same old, same old.

Think that's funny? If so, then this is the play you've been waiting for.

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