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Love triangles

Setagaya theater celebrates 10 years with noh classics

by Nobuko Tanaka

Setagaya Public Theatre (SEPT), Japan’s foremost municipal arts venue, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

Since the theater brought in 41-year-old kyogen star Mansai Nomura as artistic director in 2002, besides its usual contemporary-theater stagings, it has also showcased several noh and kyogen programs — some in their original form and some re-created in new, contemporary ways that have drawn more fans to these traditional genres.

Fittingly, then, for its special 10th-anniversary lineup, SEPT will repeat 2003′s acclaimed modern noh program “Aoi/Komachi,” which will be directed by 48-year-old Takeshi Kawamura.

The original plays on which these are based — the 15th-century “Aoinoue” and “Sotoba Komachi” — were written by the noh masters Zeami and Kanami, but were then reworked in the 1950s by the famed and ill-fated nationalist author Yukio Mishima. Kawamura rewrote the plays in 2003 especially for SEPT with a younger generation in mind, drawing inspiration, he said, both from the originals and Mishima’s versions.

In “Aoi,” the good-looking playboy Hikaru Genji morphs into a fascinating and charismatic hairdresser who is drawn into a mad love triangle with young Aoi and the ghost of his ex-lover, the magnetic and sensual middle-aged woman Rokujo.

In “Komachi,” top butoh dancer Akira Kasai plays the female role of Komachi (reminiscent of Onono Komachi, a famous Heian Period beauty and poet), elegantly expressing her mysterious charms in dance with imaginative video-projection effects.

“‘Aoi/Komachi” runs April 11-15 (times vary) at Setagaya Public Theatre, a 2-minute walk from Sangenjaya Station on the Denentoshi or Setagaya lines. Tickets are 2,000-6,000 yen yen (call the SEPT Ticket Center at [03] 5432-1515).

For more information, visit www.setagaya-ac.or.jp/sept