Directed by Lisa Portes
At TimeLine Theatre, Chicago
Provocative and perplexing play is enticing
Naomi Lizuka’s play, Concerning Strange Devices From The Distant West, is a puzzle of a play designed as a triptych that unfolds as a three-panel structure as if being seen form a camera’s lens. This drama is a provocative examination of the American fascination with the exotic and distant Far East (here Japan). The work uses themes related to photography, art, desire, forgery and perception. The structure moves form different timeline back and forth thus making the piece a tad hard to follow. Add several long speeches and the work perplexes asking for clarity.
But, once we stay attuned, the work entices and fascinates us. It explores human complexities and seduction both personal and cultural. It begins in 1880 as a Victorian woman, Isabel Hewlett (Rebecca Spance) visits Yokohama, Japan with her gun salesman husband Edmund (Craig Spidle). It is the meiji Era in Japan as the Japanese are fascinated with a new invention – the camera- that allows people to own an images from a distant land they’d never otherwise see. We see Isabel as she becomes enamored with Japanese cultural -particularly by a tattooed rick saw driver (Kroydell Galima) and his photographer employer Adolfo Farsari (Michael McKeogh). The curious Isabel asks too many questions of Farsari. When she finds out that her husband Edmund has a Japanese lover, she disappears into rural Japan.
In modern-day Tokyo, an art collector travels to Japan in search of physical memories form the Meiji Era Japan. Set through the figurative camera lens, this work has a mysterious structure wherein art and authenticity intersect where very little is what it appears to be. This work inspires curiosity and speculation as the fascinating lighting and staging is eye-popping and riveting. There is something engrossing about this work that intoxicates us as we struggle to figure out the exotic mystery. This play demands your full attention.
Besides the terrific staging, Michael McKeogh and Rebecca Spence were particularly effective. This sexy and exotic play is a departed from TimeLine’s normal work yet it is history based and quite compelling. It is 90 minutes of provocative theatre.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 24, 2013
For more info check the Concerning Strange Devices From The Distant West page at theatreinchicago.com
At TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington, Chicago, IL, call 773-281-8462, www.timelinetheatre.com, tickets $32 – $42, Wednesdays 7 Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through April 14, 2013