Thursday, May 21, 2009

I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour

Photo/Carol Rosegg

Much of I Have Been to Hiroshima Mon Amour is spent blurring the lines between 1945, 1959, and today, making a case for the collective sense of memory that belongs to us all. What is lost in Chiori Miyagawa's writing, then, is the requisite personal perspective. The sorrows that reach us are machine-made and form-fitting, as aesthetically pleasing yet predictably stated as Glenn Reed's rotoscope of a set.

It's not as much a problem that nothing in this play surprises us, after all: "We already know the ending. We've always known the ending. We'll end up with the same ending. We can't stop Hiroshima from having happened." It's that nothing in the play moves us. It's overdescriptive where it should be minimal and sincere, and it's constantly moving--Hillary Spector's expressionistic choreography--as if it were afraid to confront the tragic stillness of its core.

Each piece of the fragmented narrative trivializes the others, and the show is done no favors by the actors: Joel De La Fuente and Juliana Francis-Kelly don't have a lick of chemistry as they recreate the one-night romance of a Japanese man and French woman in the 1959 Hiroshima Mon Amour, and Sue Jean Kim is so far repressed (in most scenes, she plays an atomized shade), that when she's allowed to be more energetic in the contemporary scenes, she overdoes it.

Jean Wagner at least realizes that there's little substance to the play, and so she does her best to work within the so-called "negative space," hoping to provoke us not so much by what's shown or said in the play, but what we know is behind those shadows of actors. In some of the segues between scenes, this works--briefly--as we find images (some cryptic) projected onto the set's octagonal scrim. But the script itself is too direct, and too full of negative statements, for this to work: at one point, the Japanese Man tells the French Woman, "I like your hair and your skin. Your eyes and your lips." Predictably, the Japanese Woman in the background rebuts, with the weariness of a ghost that knows no-one can hear it, "My hair and skin. My eyes and lips. All gone."

It's a cheap sentiment--it costs nothing to say it--and the truth to Miyagawa's tame play is spoken a few scenes later by the French Woman, an actress: "I'm only interested in the concept of Hiroshima.... I'm incapable of losing more than I already have." Having grieved in private, and diluted by time and films like Hiroshima Mon Amour, Miyagawa has nothing to lose--so there's nothing for us to gain.

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