Posted by: trailerpilot | 02:21::2009


Tokyo performance group chelfitsch performs Five Days in March twice more at the MCA, tonight and tomorrow afternoon.  If you don’t have plans you should go.

If I’m to consider it as a work in dance, which I’m inclined to do, it’s groundbreaking in a number of ways.  There isn’t a shred of importance assigned to any of the movements the seven performers (Taichi Yamagata, Luchino Yamazaki, Hiromasa Shimonishi, Kohei Matsueda, Tomomitsu Adachi, Riki Takeda and Izumi Aoyagi) make.  Casual to say the least, they come across as a tiny tribe of self-aware Japanese hipsters prone to nearly-autistic levels of self-stimulating behavior.  Busying their bodies with looped, easy gestures (shifting weight on and off of an extended heel, paddling with two hands an invisible vertical liquid surface), they seem “stuck” in the least-significant sense of the word; not trapped in any kind of prison, but merely kept idle by rolling tides of ennui.


Listening to spoken Japanese for an extended period of time is a distinct pleasure; I don’t know any of the language and so it chugs on as a single, neverending word constantly shifting within a narrow range of pitches and tones.  And, for the entirety of Five Days in March, that’s all you hear:  The cast members take turns narrating the events of five days in March, 2003, which days included the buildup to and entrance of Japan into the Iraq war and attendant protests.  None of the characters seem to care, however; like the small cycles of movement in their playful joints they’re more interested by the unpredictable swing of interaction between longtime friends and others just met.  A central pair, Minobe and Yukki, meet cute at a Roppongi club, having both showed up to the peformance of a “minor Canadian band” that recently soundtracked a shlocky film.  Due to the vagaries of commuter train schedules, they end up in a love hotel in Shibuya, where they proceed to ignore the passage of time, and for a time their hunger, in favor of near-constant intercourse.  It’s all very funny and easy and the characters are beautifully drawn, pinned-together muslin mockups of odd interests, irrational anxieties, raging hormones and idle minds.  The story leaks out achronologically, skipping some chapters and repeating others, and the war pops in and out of view as though it’s playing on TVs in a big box store when you’re there shopping for something else.

Shibuya, Tokyo

Shibuya, Tokyo

Even more than it’s like watching the 30 seconds before a full run-through of a dance in rehearsal looped for an hour–which is a lot what it’s like–observing Five Days in March is like reading a novella, which it is, for those like me who don’t speak Japanese.  The entire piece is translated two lines at a time and projected on a white wall above the performers’ heads; this wall also reflects a few simple colored shapes of light (by Tomomi Ohira) that, in the most minimal of strokes, recall spill from a neighboring space being funneled into darkness by a window on the street or a door cracked open.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen less used more effectively in a technical design.  The cast isn’t miked, either–the perimeter of the space holds around a dozen microphones and the acoustics of the MCA theater (my favorite performance space in the city, I think) don’t call for much amplification anyway.  It all combines for a sort of effortless intimacy that no close-up could match–if anything about playwright/director/novelist Toshiki Okada is genius, and I think he is one, it’s how calm he is in his arrangement of theater’s core ingredients.  I hate to bring it to this kind of cultural cliché, but the show really is like a perfectly-pruned bonsai or the serene, combed sands of a Zen garden, and if the evening’s last five minutes don’t fully exercise the potential of its collected, humble thrust, well, I’d like to see what you have in mind.  Beautiful, brave work by everyone–Chicago is fortunate to host these outstanding artists.



  1. So beautiful, makes you take a deep breath, pause and just soak in the life…

  2. […] few times last night I wanted to be in a different kind of space.  I’ll say it again:  I love that theater, but I wanted to be in the setpiece Factory and Max’s Kansas City […]

  3. […] “It’s all very funny and easy and the characters are beautifully drawn, pinned-together muslin m…February 21, 2009 […]

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