According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Five Days in March

In early February, Manhattan was host to the Chelfitsch Theater Company, a young Japanese troupe making a name for itself by specifically capturing the affect of Generation Y-ers in Japan. Though Chelfitsch’s stay in NYC was brief, based on their strong production of Five Days in March, the city will see more of them in the coming seasons.

Review by Amanda Cooper

From plot summary alone, Five Days in March comes across as pornographic: a young man and woman meet at a concert, exchange a few words, and then shack up in a hotel room for five days (in March). These five day also happen to be the first five days of the Iraq War. The play does not show us events. Instead, it is narrated—most scenes are conversations recounted to the audience; only rarely do the actors speak to one another. In addition to the hotel-bound main characters, we meet a number of their friends who are in town, and other individuals who are a degree or two of separation away from the pair.

The production is minimal—from the lack of a set to the subdued staging—but it is well thought out. A screen at the back of the stage shows supertitles (the performers stick with the play’s original language; the supertitles have been translated by Japanese-American playwright Aya Ogawa), and lighting effects. For the most part, the seven performers stay close to the screen, sometimes even leaning, or sitting against it. The actors look age-appropriate—part of the twentysomething Generation Y Chelfitsch intends to capture—and they carry themselves with an affectation familiar to anyone who has spent time with this age group (from any country). They present a detached, fast speech pattern, and low-key outward emotion—though feelings and philosophical emphatics seep through at times.

On the macro level, Five Days in March is a simplistic play. But what makes this show, and writer/director Toshiki Okada, worth watching, is what’s on the micro level: odd character ticks; small, sweet interactions; quick flashes of emotions; and yes, even optimism. All that honesty makes one eager to see more from Chelfitsch. Let’s cross our fingers that a theater like St. Ann’s or P.S. 122 brings them across the Pacific again soon.

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