nytheatre.com review by Akia Squitieri
August 23, 2006
Full House is presented by the Japanese company Project "S." In their press materials they place a strong emphasis upon sharing the Japanese theatre tradition.
In Full House, you are introduced to Noriko Natsume, backstage the day before opening night of a one-woman show. She is an actress who has finally gotten her big break, playing an actress who has finally gotten her big break. Surrounding her are Taka, her doting assistant; prompter Harumi, who is required because Noriko can't remember her lines; the zany props mistress Saori, who loves creating mischief wherever she goes; and the panicked assistant director Kaoru. Noriko has let fame go to her head, and piles abuses upon those around her. Fearful of ruining the show, Kaoru defends and protects her. Taka bows to her every whim, while Saori and Harumi plot their revenge on Noriko.
The show is spoken entirely in Japanese with a wall of subtitles. The first act was a difficult challenge of figuring out how to read the subtitles and watch the actors move about the stage at the same time. Thankfully the first act is mostly exposition, allowing time for the audience to get used to the idea of live theatre with subtitles. (The subtitles were inconsistent in speed, and there was only one screen—future productions should include a screen on either side of the stage.) Another challenge was getting used to this particular acting style, which is very large and over-the-top.
By the second act, we come to opening night of the show, and tag along for the ride of backstage pitfalls and hijinks. In the end, the crew comes together to make their show-within-the-show a triumph.
Playing dual roles as Noriko Natsume and her onstage character Kumiko Kurosaki, Reiko Yamaguchi excels deftly, balancing the charming leading lady and the tyrannical spoiled actress. Haruko Uchida, as Harumi, is delightful in her comic maneuvers throughout the show, bringing alive Charlie Chaplin-esque slapstick facial tics that aren't often seen anymore. As Saori, Yumi Masumura's delightful passion is infectious; she is an actress who obviously loves every minute on stage. Keishi Matsuishi sweetly plays the role of Taka with endearing devotion and ease. Flamboyant and frantic Kaoru is played with skill by Katmusi Yamaya.
The overall production values are very accomplished. The clever set, which is rotated for the audience to see both front and backstage, is done very well (there was no set credit in the program). Costumes are rich in design and the sound is good.
Writer/director Masako Sato deftly creates a humorous and highly enjoyable production that overcomes the challenges of language barriers and technology. Imagine the sitcom Friends set backstage at a theatre in Japan and you've got Full House. Fun, witty, and easily accessible.