“Nadeshiko” Presented by Sound Theatre Company

I left the theatre uplifted, thinking “Wow,” loving what I had seen but I couldn’t at that moment tell you exactly what it was about. It’s a great production, but the play needs a little work. It was only after some time for reflection and some research that it all made sense. So let me tell you “the plot” such as it is so you can fully appreciate the magic of this theatrical work.

“Nadeshiko” is a Japanese term that relates to the personification of an idealized Japanese female. It’s the epitome of pure feminine beauty. In this play we see examples from two generations of Japanese women. One of them lives in the time of WW II. Her job (as a Nadeshiko Unit girl) is to provide comfort to the Japanese pilots who will soon be flying to their death as they carry out their kamikaze mission. The other young woman is contemporary. She finds her work on Craig’s list. Men watch her perform and then can hire her to “visit” them. She does what she must to earn the money for her rent.

It’s interesting to note that a popular phenomenon in Japan today is indeed the “Cam girl.” She chats live from her home performing various acts to encourage men to enter her private screen and have some personal time with her. It’s kind of like reviewing a restaurant menu on-line and then ordering take-out.

So, playwright Keiko Green is opening a window on contemporary Japanese society and looking to its past. She wants to show her audience how two generations of Japanese women “discover the power within idealized Asian beauty.” Director Kaytlin McIntyre sees the play as a tool for broadening our understanding of what being a woman can mean.

Critical to that goal is the role of Nadeshiko played by Ina Chang. Dressed and made-up as an old woman, Chang pops out from behind the scenes periodically throughout the play. She’s wizened and wry, bent over with age, but she’s filled with wisdom and offers her good advice with delightful humor. All the acting is excellent here, but Chang has the best role and performance.

So . . . a lovely theatrical experience (good set, lighting, and acting) even though it is somewhat puzzling. Get to the theatre early enough to read the conversation with the playwright that appears in the program. I didn’t read it first so didn’t really get the playwright’s full message until after the play was over.

Through May 8 at Center Theatre, Seattle Center Armory, (SoundTheatreCompany.org, or 206 856-5520.)

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