Review of Current Location, Yale Cabaret
When you hear a rumor of unusual, threatening occurrences, how do you react? Do you buy into the speaker’s sense of panic? Do you try to distance yourself from the situation, perhaps undermine the report’s veracity?
Japanese playwright Toshiki Okada’s Current Location—translated by Aya Ogawa and directed by Josh Goulding at Yale Cabaret—implies that, in today’s world, we are all under threat in a generalized way: climate change, pollution, military interventions, the testing of weapons and chemicals we know nothing about. We might say that our ability to soldier own, despite our intuited sense of how toxic is our environment—not least the one the media creates—is our lives' main dramatic situation. The phrase used as the play’s title echoes its general use in describing a threat—whether a killer on the loose or a natural disaster. Everyone is concerned about a threat’s “current location,” so as to differentiate those people “there” from us, “here.”
In Okada’s play, the sense of generic threat we all live with, at some level, becomes real for a group of women in a village where everyone sort of knows everyone else. Which means, ostensibly, there should be some solidarity in how they react to odd events—a glowing blue cloud, a remarkable drop in the lake’s water level, unusual behavior among other villagers—and yet. . . .
As the play goes on we mainly encounter what may be called different coping mechanisms. Cassie (Molly Fitzmaurice) is the most panicky, but then she’s the one who saw that huge, glowing cloud, while out with her boyfriend who, to add to her stress, wanted to view the phenomenon “romantically.” Like Cassie, Hana (Bianca Boragi), also freaking out, comes to two sisters, Irina (Chiara Klein) and Katrina (Emily Reeder) for advice. The sisters are presented as the bedrock dispensers of practical viewpoints. They are not easily swayed to hysterical outbursts, evincing a patient sense of the plausible and the practical, what is usually called, in sci-fi or horror movies, “a logical explanation.” Of the two, Irina seems more sympathetic; Katrina, more imperious and flinty. Eunice (Eunice Amo), another neighbor, expresses her gratitude for the kinds of heart-to-hearts the sisters provide.
Whether there is an explanation or not is something that Okada keeps us guessing about. And so, as viewers, our sense of implication becomes a matter of how we react to such provocations. Are the sisters so rational we want to scream? Is screaming Cassie or Hana so extreme we want to stifle her? How do we get to the truth? And, even if we know the truth, how should we act on it?
One way to deal with what we don’t understand, Okada suggests, with a sense of satire, is to satirize it. Maya (Amber Koonce) and Audrey (Caitlin Crombleholme) attempt to put on a play that mimics the kind of dread and dread-defeating rationales to which all the characters are susceptible. But it proves too much for Cassie. Art is no refuge, if in fact the entire village and its environs are contaminated. (Okada wrote the play in the wake of the 2011 nuclear reactor crisis in Japan, following the Tohoku earthquake, so that the play within the play is very much apt to the author’s situation in writing Current Location.)
The Cab’s staging takes place in the round, the set itself consisting of two chairs that face each other as on a talk show. The actors open and close the play seated amidst the audience, which of course has the effect of including us in “the village.” In fact, the way in which the action includes the audience is much to the point here. Goulding’s cast make us feel their discomfort; they aren’t acting so much as reacting, and, it’s implied, how can we remain so detached when lives are at stake? With an all-female cast, the play deliberately avoids the presentation of males in authoritative roles, so that our sense of the crisis is filtered entirely through how these women speak to each other.
In the middle of the play or thereabouts an act of violence perpetrated by Katrina is staged with a kind of matter-of-fact solidarity by the others (except Irina). It’s not a do-or-die moment, where a definite threat must be suppressed, and the act feels almost ritualistic, a kind of group mind enactment we are suddenly complicit with. As with the final imagery of the play, we are asked: are you in or out—on the ship looking back at the deluded fools who remain behind, or, secure in the only world you’ve ever known, looking on at deluded fools who try to escape their own fears?
Current Location is a thought-provoking play, a stab into the complacency of the onlooker, an effort to suggest that catharsis should occur in real life. This production’s immediacy and lack of distancing helps make the play’s point.
By Toshiki Okada
Translated by Aya Ogawa
Directed by Josh Goulding
Composer: Molly Joyce; Music Director: Chiara Klein; Dramaturg: Kari Olmon; Set Designer: Joo Hyun Kim; Lighting Designer: Erin Fleming; Costume Designer: Cole McCarty; Sound Designer: Megumi Katayama; Fight Director: Michael Commendatore; Stage Manager: John Carlin; Technical Director: Brian Pacelli; Assistant Technical Director: Jenna Heo; Producer: Chad Dexter Kinsman
Cast: Eunice Amo, Bianca Boragi, Caitlin Crombleholme, Molly Fitzmaurice, Chiara Klein, Amber Koonce, Emily Reeder
October 27-29, 2016
Next up at the Cabaret this week: Thunder Above, Deeps Below, by Yale School of Drama MFA and celebrated playwright A. Rey Pamatmat, directed by third-year actor Sebastian Arboleda, who also directed last’s season’s intriguing Cloud Tectonics, which also featured elements of magical realism, as does Pamatmat’s play. As the last play this season to be staged before the 2016 election, Thunder Above, Deeps Below asks us to look at the “quintessentially American lives” of characters who are “disenfranchised, queer, trans, or immigrants.” November 3-5.