The design-enhanced world of Naomi Iizuka's 36 Views — about the discovery of a priceless Japanese "pillow book" and its impact on the lives of art experts — officially opens March 28, a shift of one day from the announced March 27, at The Public Theater.
Using Japanese screens that slide to create multiple locations, and Ruppert Bohle's projections that serve to underscore the script's emotion and plotting, director Mark Wing-Davey fills the stage of the Newman Theatre with images unexpected for a play whose subject is the provenance of an obscure cultural object.
Audiences in previews have delighted in the mysterious design elements — including a rising and falling screen onto which filmic images are projected — and the Kabuki-style acting choices (the program includes a glossary of terms for the uninitiated).
In the drama, a mysterious one-of-a-kind Japanese pillow book is discovered, setting the field of Asian antiquity on its ear, and challenging a cocky, adventurer-art dealer (played by Lang). Behind the scenes, art restorer Claire (Tse) and an antique dealer's assistant, John (Moss-Bachrach), become caught up in their own lies and deceptions as the alleged pillow book reveals contradictions in their lives. A surprise revelation comes by play's end.
Iizuka's play had its premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2001 in California, and then came east to Off-Broadway's Public, where previews began March 12. The staging is a co production between the two non-profits. Ebon Moss Bachrach, Elaine Tse, Liana Pai and Rebecca Wisocky repeat their performances under the direction of Wing-Davey. New to the play are Stephen Lang and Richard Clarke. They take on the parts played in California by Bill Camp and Peter Donat. The play marks a return to the New York stage for Lang, who was a frequent presence on and Off-Broadway in the 80s and early 90s.
Iizuka is also the author of Polaroid Stories, Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls, War of the Worlds (with Anne Pigart) and The Language of Angels. Designers are Douglas Stein (set), Myung Hee Cho (costume), David Weiner (lighting), Matthew Spiro (sound) and Ruppert Bohle (projections).
Obie Award-winning director Wing-Davey staged The Public's The Skriker, Troilus and Cressida and Silence, Cunning, Exile. He helmed the 36 Views workshop at the Sundance Festival.
Tickets are $45. The Public is at 425 Lafayette in Manhattan. For information, call (212) 239-6200 or visit www.publictheater.org.
— By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson