" The actors [...] are excellent (and the Japanese accents dead-on)."
-Glenn Sumi, NOW magazine
"There was some sort of higher power present in the air that
marked this as one of those unexpectedly unique evenings of
theatre that we all hope for."
-Richard Ouzounian, Toronto Star
Dora Mavor Nominated for:
new play, Daniel MacIvor
direction (Brendan Healy),
male performance (Michael Dufays),
scenic design (Julie Fox),
lighting (Kimberly Purtell) and
sound composition (Richard Feren)
Arigato, Tokyo 4 out of 4
Thanks to a wonderful cast the riches of Arigato, Tokyo are unlocked — Review
By: Richard Ouzounian Theatre Critic, Published on Thu Mar 21 2013. Toronto Star
“Sometimes there’s God so quickly,” once wrote Tennessee Williams, an author that Daniel MacIvor has often been in spiritual sync with. And although the deity, per se, isn’t really on the table in MacIvor’s latest play, Arigato, Tokyo, which opened Thursday night at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, there was some sort of higher power present in the air that marked this as one of those unexpectedly unique evenings of theatre that we all hope for.
It’s rare that MacIvor steps outside of his creative comfort zone, either staging his plays himself, or letting longtime colleague Daniel Brooks do the honours. And if there’s a leading male role, rest assured that MacIvor himself will probably play it.
But none of that happens in Arigato, Tokyo and the novelty of the production itself is a major part of the evening’s success, with superb staging by Brendan Healy, stark but beautiful scenery and costumes by Julie Fox, Kimberly Purtell’s bento-box lighting and Richard Feren’s pitch-perfect sound design.
Very loosely inspired by a pair of journeys MacIvor took to Japan several years ago, the script tells the story of a Canadian author named Carl who travels to Tokyo to give a series of readings from his works.
Wired on cocaine and sake, looking for love in all the wrong places, Carl begins having an affair with his female interpreter, shifts gears to a young transvestite entertainer and finally winds up with his interpreter’s brother, an actor in the Noh theatre.
The piece is a puzzle as artful as anything MacIvor has ever written and its subject, as it often is with this ever-searching author, is the topography of the human heart.
Arigato, Tokyo charts the often painful voyage that an individual can go on while trying to mix love with desire and loneliness with self-knowledge. Whether or not you find its conclusion happy or sad, I guarantee you will be moved by the progression toward it.
A wonderful cast helps unlock the script’s riches. David Storch is triumphant as Carl, the best performance I have ever seen him give. Storch isn’t afraid to show his character’s wilful self-indulgence or childlike petulance as he tries to melt the block of ice that his heart has become over the years. He is totally real and incredibly moving throughout.
Cara Gee and Michael Dufays are equally impressive as the brother and sister who fight for Carl’s soul, she all iron butterfly and he a soulful samurai.
Rounding out the evening is the memorable young Tyson James as Etta Waki, our guide through this strange world and a creation as fragile and wonderful to watch as one of those translucent tropical fish.
If you’re the kind of theatregoer who likes every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed, this isn’t the show for you.Arigato,Tokyo cries out to be seen with an openness of spirit and a generosity of soul that matches that of its creators.
I began with a Tennessee Williams quote that captured the feeling of the evening and I’ll end with another that encapsulates its theme: “Make voyages, attempt them. There’s nothing else.”
John Coulbourn, Special to the Toronto Sun
First posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 06:58 PM EDT | Updated: Monday, March 25, 2013 07:03 PM
Thank you, Arigato
New work from Daniel MacIvor has just the right amount of ‘umami’ to bring it to perfection
TORONTO - From a part of the world best known of late for cataclysmic collisions between shifting tectonic plates, playwright Daniel MacIvor has mined a stagework that brings together the templates of two cultures, not in a violent grinding confrontation, but in a thoughtful, exquisite fusion instead.
It’s called Arigato, Tokyo and it had its world premiere at Buddies In Bad Times last week.
Inspired by MacIvor’s own visit to Tokyo, the play — the title of which translates loosely (and with cavalier inaccuracy) as Thank You, Tokyo — tells the story of Carl, a Canadian writer, played with relish and artfully restrained abandon by David Storch. By his own admission, Carl lives for drugs and sex, but he is about to be transformed by a visit to the city of title.
He’s there, it develops, to read from his collected and highly cynical works, which he does — but there is a deeper reason for his visit too.
It might be to fall into the trap, spun by his beautiful and mysterious Japanese handler, Nushi (played by a note-perfect Cara Gee), who sees in him the embodiment of the hero of an ancient love story, or it might be simply to effect a sexual reunion with the exotic drag geisha, Etta Waki who, in the performance of the remarkable Tyson James, is transformed into the very soul of this pulsating and mysterious city.
Or finally, it might be to understand the subtle differences that hide in the spaces between “no,” “know” and “noh’ — the latter an ancient Japanese theatrical form practised by Nushi’s brother, played by a beautifully centred Michael Dufays — and thereby find his way back home.
Working with one of the more impressive casts assembled on a Toronto stage in some time, director Brendan Healy embraces the utter simplicity at the heart of all great Japanese art. In a memorable conspiracy with his design team — sets and costumes by Julie Fox, lighting by Kimberly Purtell, sound and music by Richard Feren and choreography by Hiroshi Miyamoto — he creates a production spare in all the right ways, stripped of anything that might detract from the richness of the characters and the story they tell.
And best of all, he finds in MacIvor’s carefully and beautifully drawn script, a perfect balance of the elements of Japanese flavour. To the saltiness of tears, the bitterness of loss, the sourness of excess and finally the sweetness of love, he adds just the right amount of umami — that exquisite but oh-so-hard-to-define theatrical element that exists in all the plays we savour — to finish it off to perfection.
Arigato, Tokyo is a deeply complex work that, in its setting and development, represents a major departure for a playwright known for simpler works like Here Lies Henry and Cul-de-sac, but ultimately, it soars on the same carefully considered construction and artfully under-drawn human compassion that has made MacIvor one of the greats of contemporary Canadian theatre.
ARIGATO, TOKYO, is a rare and dangerous blossom and a new offering by playwright Daniel MacIvor, now playing at-in-Bad-Times Theatre, in downtown Toronto. The drama tells the tale of an author, much in love with sex and drugs, on a book tour of Japan, where he intends to promote his latest scribing on the nature of love. Instead, he may be part of an elaborate hoax, created by desire and obsession. MacIvor’s script provides a dissection of love, as seen from different vantage points.
However, what I found so compelling about this drama was the overall production at Buddies Theatre. It’s a kind of landmark of what theatre can be, and should be. The minute Arigato, Tokyo begins, you know you’re in a different world, one full of exquisite suggestion, echoes, shadows, and ghosts. This is theatre at its finest, and magic that will follow you home.
Brendan Healy directs and he does it handsomely; his work is both edgy and highly restrained. In my view, any theatre director worth his salt will make an extra effort to see it. Collectively, the cast is wonderful. This includes David Storch as the cynical Western writer who suppresses his romantic longings behind drink and cocaine and endless nights of sex with any gender available. There’s also the wonderful Cara Gee as the author’s “baby sitter”, managing the indulgent author on his ever-extended tour, and Michael Dufays as her brother and keeper of a strange secret. Most of all, there’s the hypnotic performance by Tyson James as the cross-dressing narrator of and participant in the story. This is an erotic work, sensual and evocative.
Upon my word, this is also NO ordinary presentation. Whatever flaws this play and production might have are forgiven because it risks more than most would dare. The set and costumes, the lighting, sound, music, dance and movement all work as a piece.
SO PLEASE JUST GO NOW! Thank you.
FAB MAgazine review: Drew Rowsome
Emotions simmer to a boil in a cultural/sexual collision
March 22nd, 2013
A new Daniel MacIvor play is always a cause for celebration. And curiosity. MacIvor has a unique gift for plumbing the depths of the human psyche and heart, flinching neither from the horror or the ecstatic. Arigato, Tokyo is based on MacIvor's visits to Japan and seems to be his attempt to achieve some form of understanding of a very different and, in this production, alien culture. The disorientation that Japenese culture often creates for Westerners is evoked by the decision to use thick -- but just to the edge of alienating -- Japanese accents (a dialect coach is credited in the program), and it is an effective device that puts the audience in the same confused head space as the lead. There are long passages of poetic fancy, filled with ideas, that must be listened to carefully to parse the meaning, let alone some of the words. When the author character, played bravely as an unsympathetic anti-hero by David Storch, reads to a Japanese audience, and Cara Gee, as his babysitter/lover/patron, reads a simultaneous translation, the whole play snaps into focus and the gulf between cultures and human hearts is delineated with stunning clarity.
This production is one of the most visually and sonically stunning that Buddies, or any other theatre for that matter, has produced. MacIvor's patented one-man-show, pinpoint lighting is expanded into Robert Lepage territory, with entire environments conjured out of thin air on a set that initially appears stark. Both MacIvor and director Brendan Healy seem to enjoy exploring the artifice of theatre -- the ancient art of Noh theatre is not only thematically linked, but the stylization and emotional reserve are deliberately echoed and used -- and the delight that an audience feels when they've been seduced into believing.
From the moment Tyson James appears behind a scrim, he becomes a dominating force. His first entrance, a virtuoso lip-synched performance of Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black," is a false tease -- the character is a ghost, a narrator, and while James glides through the action and handles pages and pages of dialogue with aplomb, it is impossible not to watch him: this spectre has a solid physical presence. Even when playing coy or demure he is mesmerizing. And he needs to be: the long, long narrative speeches are poetic and defiantly non-linear but must be closely followed for the themes to tie up at the end.
Michael Dufays is a hunk of a love object and is fortunately shirtless, or more, for most of Arigato, Tokyo. However, being eye-candy does not detract from his embodiment of masculinity and Noh theatre, a still centre holding the entire evening together in direct contrast to James's goading of the action. The characters are forever removing their clothing or redressing, but the masking fabric, Noh theatre again, is not a barrier to their emotional state or ability to connect. All but Dufays explode with emotion by the end, but it is too late -- the actor has replaced his mask and is, for the first time, fully dressed.
Arigato, Tokyo is not an easy play and is not light entertainment. But like a deceptively simple bento box, it is filled with wonders carefully arranged for maximum sensual and intellectual appeal, offering ideas and images that haunt the brain and heart, surfacing long after the lights have dimmed.