“This Lingering Life,” Theatre of Yugen’s world premiere by Chiori Miyagawa, is a funny, wise, philosophical and thought-provoking puzzle of a show.
Onstage at Z Space, the play is based on (and takes some of its stylized movement and spare staging elements from) the ancient Japanese art form called Noh. At the same time, its themes, pronouncements, questions and emotions are entirely contemporary. The wild series of interwoven vignettes — addressing the concept of karma — combine characters that cross cultures, centuries and living vs. spirit worlds.
Ancient Japanese warriors, angels, ghosts, mobsters, teens, families and backpackers all populate, and intermingle, in the marvelous universe created by New York-based playwright Miyagawa and brilliantly animated by director Jubilith Moore (also Theatre of Yugen’s artistic director).
Moore is also a pure delight as the anchor of the show, portraying a Woman with Tragic Hair. Dressed in a Japanese-style robe and a fun wig with tresses going up, rather than down, Moore at one point, toward the outset, amusingly realizes she is the narrator and provides a link to the show’s nine stories.
Her compatriots are equally interesting and versatile. They include: Sheila Berotti as two mothers (one crazy, one not), an angel and a gangster; Nick Ishimaru as a sympathetic backpacker who encounters the crazy woman and, hilariously, as Princess, a classic mean girl; Hannah Lennett as a young warrior and a woman who seduces her stepson; Alexander Lydon as the stepson and a mystical gangster; Ryan Marchand as the crazy woman’s daughter and a young gardener who oversees a more skilled, old gardener at Princess’ wealthy home; Norman Munoz as another backpacker and the warrior’s mother; and Lluis Valls as the man with the seductive wife, the old gardener and a little boy whose mom tells him his father is an arrow.
Sheila Devitt, as the brother of the tragic-haired woman, also gets the two-hour production off to a smooth start with a short synopsis of the tales to come. The mini-preview is a nice setup for American audiences unfamiliar with the super-stylized aspects of “This Lingering Life,” as it thrillingly meshes old and new, worldly and magical, and Eastern and Western influences.
This Lingering Life
Presented by Theatre of Yugenv Where: Z Space, 450 Florida St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. today and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Tickets: $15 to $50
Contact: (415) 626-0453, www.theatreofyugen.org