The plot of Hwang's The Sound of a Voice involves a traveling stranger who stops at a lone woman's house in a Japanese forest. The woman's generosity touches the man, and he stays far beyond when he planned to leave - with the two of them getting deeper and deeper into each other's inner lives, perhaps too deeply. This construct will be familiar to anyone who's seen Hiroshi Teshigahara's 1964 film WOMAN IN THE DUNES. Indeed, Hwang's piercing dialogue achieves much the same moving effect as that film's haunting visuals. Hwang looks into the very nature of human emotional need and finds something of a trap, but an inevitable, maybe even a necessary one. Unfortunately, Philip Baltazar was lacking in depth as the man, seldom getting a vivid enough sense of how the character's soul is being stretched out of shape. Hatsuko Otsuka was splendid, though, as the woman. Just cryptic enough without being obscure, she essayed a fascinating view of loneliness and how it motivates us.
The Eternal Game is an allegorical political melodrama. A bit heavy-handed in its writing, it benefited from a lot of earnest, intelligently shaded acting by a large cast.
Joanna Chan's direction of both plays was particularly astute, whether realistic in the first or highly stylized in the second. However, the second play was handicapped by Chan's choice of placing a translation on the left hand side of the stage. The play was performed in Mandarin as an English version of the dialogue scrolled down the lefthand side. This was fine for the back half of the house. But the sightlines for the front half made it impossible to both read the lines and watch the action. At times, it was like watching a tennis game.
Otherwise, the production was handsomely designed, with Christopher Thomas's set elegantly entrancing, along with Gina Lee's costumes and Woohyung Lee's lighting.
(The Eternal Game also featured Steven Zhang, Lu Yu, Young Yat-De,, Phillip Baltazar, Lu Bo, and Mari Horuichi. Choreography by Cha-Lee Chan.)
Copyright 1997 John Michael Koroly
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