Les Waters (Eurydice, In the Next Room) directs the new script about the power and mystery of photography. The collaborators "explore the intersection of art and authenticity in a haunting play commissioned by Berkeley Rep," according to production notes.
Performances play the Rep's Roda Theatre in Berkeley, CA, to April 11. The cast includes Teresa Avia Lim, Bruce McKenzie, Kate Norris, Danny Wolohan and Johnny Wu.
"Taking its title from a treatise on photography translated into Japanese, Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West shifts between the present and the 1880s when a weird new technology first seized the world in freeze frame," according to Berkeley Rep notes. "Cameras captured images of geishas, monks, and shrines and sent them to the future in a flash — where we continue to seek meaning through lenses of exoticism and xenophobia. The intricate parts of this world premiere nestle together like a delicate puzzle…or erotic glimpses of an enigmatic tattoo. Expose yourself to the mystery of Strange Devices."
Iizuka's plays include 36 Views, which received its world premiere at Berkeley Rep before playing Off-Broadway. Her latest scripts, Strike-Slip and Ghostwritten, premiered at the Humana Festival of New Plays and the Goodman Theatre, respectively. Her other plays include 17 Reasons Why; After a Hundred Years; Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls; Anon(ymous); At the Vanishing Point; Citizen 13559; Hamlet: Blood in the Brain (a collaboration with California Shakespeare Theater and Campo Santo + Intersection for the Arts); Language of Angels; Polaroid Stories; Skin; Tattoo Girl; and War of the Worlds (a collaboration with Anne Bogart and SITI Company). The Strange Devices design team includes Mimi Lien (scenic design), Annie Smart (costume design), Alexander V. Nichols (lighting design), Bray Poor (sound design), Leah Gelpe (projection design). The stage manager is Karen Szpaller.
For tickets and information, visit berkeleyrep.org.
"I started writing this play because I was fascinated by a 19th-century photograph of a rickshaw driver," playwright Iizuka said in production notes. "As I continued to look at old photos of Japan, I found myself asking more questions. Who was behind the camera, and why were so many people in the West drawn to these pictures? I wanted to understand the relationship between what we see, what we think we see, and the truth. It's an honor and a delight to work with Les again on this project. He has this uncanny gift to see what a play is at its core, to reveal the hidden or invisible truths of the text. It's also a joy to return to Berkeley Rep. I feel a strong connection to both this theatre and this community."
Waters added, "Several years ago, at the Humana Festival, Naomi and I collaborated on another play about photography, At the Vanishing Point. It is a pleasure to work with her again and to further explore this territory. She writes beautifully — and incredibly visually — about the limits of perception. We like to think that photographs are real; yet each one is artifice, a work of art that persuades us it represents reality. Similarly, in this mystery play, nothing and no one is quite what it seems. I enjoy how the plot challenges us to fit the disparate pieces of the puzzle together, and I trust the audience will as well."