Ping Chong & Company's critically acclaimed Kwaidan, a piece of puppet theatre based on three Japanese ghost stories translated at the turn of the century by American journalist Lafcadio Hearn ends its scheduled run Sept. 26.
The first piece, "The Story of Jikininki," tells of a selfish priest, who as punishment, returns to life as a flesh-eating goblin. "The Story of Mimi Nashi-Hoichi" is the tale of a blind boy, Hoichi (played by actor David Ige), who is tormented by the spirits of Heiki warriors, embodied as crabs with human faces. The final story belongs to O-Tei, a woman who promises her fiance that she will return him after she dies. She finally does, but in the person of a fast food counter girl who can't remember who she was in her past life.
Kwaidan marks the first full-scale puppet show for Ping Chong, who has used puppets in such past pieces as Fear and Loathing in Gotham, Nuit Blanche and Snow (which was based on "Uki Onna," another Japanese spirit tale).
Jon Ludwig serves as puppetry coordinator with Mitsuru Ishii providing both art direction and production design. Other design team members include David Meschter (sound), Liz Lee (lighting), and Jan Hartley (projections).
The puppeteers are Pamela O'Connor, Lee Randall, Fred C. Riley III and Don Smith. Kwaidan is a presentation of the 1998 Jim Henson Foundation International Festival of Puppet Theatre. Tickets are $25-20 and reservations can be made by calling (212) 475-7710 or (212) 279-4200. La MaMa's Annex Theatre is located at 74A East Fourth Street.
La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club's Annex Theatre on E. 4th Street in the East Village section of New York reopened Sept. 17 with Kwaidan after a year-long renovation. The $3 million redo includes new heating and air conditioning and an elevator to bring the building up to the standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Construction began in 1997. In addition to the above improvements, the renovation succeeded in preserving the theatre's wooden structures, tin siding and tin ceilings. The architect on the project was The Edelman Partnership.
La MaMa moved into the Annex Theatre in 1974. In the late 19th century, the building was used as a Yiddish theatre, then a venue for Italian theatre. During the 1950's and 1960's, it was the soundstage for the television program "The Naked City."