HPR - Kawasaki Exit review

January 21st, 2010 by Wil Knoll

Most ears raised on English are able to pick up the subtlety of tone in linguistics, but the mouth is not trained too well to recreate the tones of foreign language due to a lazy tongue and flat accent. Japanese uses changes in pitch on syllables within words, which contrasts some Chinese languages which assign a tone to an entire word. Ask a westerner if there was a downstep on that second syllable or if the tone was a contour overall…

Kawasaki Exit has a design to it that helps reveal to the viewer nuances of tone in language, movement, and emotion that at first are not always clear. One Yellow Rabbit’s Kawasaki Exit at the High Performance Rodeo has done its homework and comes out feeling authentic and detailed. You have three more nights to see it. I recommend you do so.

The story of how one family deals with terminal illness plays out in two acts across two languages, and with time running in two directions. In the first act, the entire show is delivered in Japanese accompanied by English subtitles. In the second act English is spoken but the show plays in reverse order. It’s this linguistic and linear trickery that pulls back the covers and reveals something about the internals of the machinery to us.

Moving forward, the viewer’s mind is split between reading the subtitles and viewing/listening to the performers. This divorces us from a unified take on a line, and we approach each line twice. We can read faster than the line is spoken, so the mind has internalized the toneless text for meaning one way. But then our heart processes how the words came out, how the soul’s breath contours sound. There are “A Ha!” moments, when deeper layers of context and history can be felt out through the tone that are not immediately apparent in the text.

Moving backwards, lines that were only steps in progression to a larger point stand out as statements. In the English spoken second act, movement is splayed open. Running the body backwards, breaking our normal visual filters for patterns, changes in tone through body language or posture are highlighted. Movements not noticed before are staccato notes in a quite car ride.

Denise Clarke and Andy Curtis are studies in tone. Curtis was born to speak Japanese, and his sharp bow summarizes so much unsaid. Clarke dissects her character with heartbreaking precision, and when her cracks show she takes us with her. The ensemble, rounded out with bright eyed Pat MacEachern, is capable and plays warmly with each other. The set and lights are very minimal, the major piece being shades of a car that has not grown much since the sampling of the show back in November.

As it is, it is a show well worth watching, a must see at HPR. But I still wonder if there is tooling that could be done if OYR decides to tour the show or remount it. The second act feels a bit rushed somehow. The English is less pleasing on the ear, so we notice that the pacing is done up. It feels a bit more like a race back to the beginning then an honest timeline. And I wonder if the acts should be reversed… I can’t discuss with you why until you have seen it.

As it stands, the beginning, as the end, is perfect. It’s a moment that when first viewed is just cute, but when touched the second time is frontloaded with the history of it’s future and the tone of it’s passing. It is heartbreaking, profound, and a rich red dusk from the land of the rising sun.

Kawasaki Exit
One Yellow Rabbit performance Theatre
Runs through Saturday, 23 January 2022
Big Secret Theatre

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