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Tokyo-based Hi-bye, whose name means “crawling-death” (from the Japanese hi-hi, meaning “to crawl,” and the English farewell, “bye-bye”) was founded in 2003 by playwright, director and actor Hideto Iwai, 35, and has built a reputation for its keen observations of the darker and weaker aspects of humans nature — normally leavened with plenty of cynical humor.

The company grabbed the attention of the new artistic director of Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space (TMAS) in Ikebukuro, Hideki Noda, who chose it to kick off his new, open-ended program, “Geigeki Eyes” (“TMAS Eyes”), which aims to showcase the nation’s best rising theatrical talents. As an audience member for the preview staging of Iwai’s play “Te” (“Hand”) last September, Noda was one of many whose delighted laughter repeatedly filled a cozy studio. Later, another giant of Japanese contemporary theater, Oriza Hirata — leader of the Seinendan theater company and currently a special adviser to Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s Cabinet — also heaped praise on Hi-bye’s performance.

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