Romeo and Toilet
nytheatre.com review by Joe Beaudin
August 26, 2009
Kaimaku Pennant Race's show Romeo and Toilet—straight from Tokyo—is billed as having a style emphasizing the "explosion of energy spread out" and "uniting Japanese animated cartoon culture and Japanese physical characteristics." It is also described as a "challenge" of Romeo and Juliet. While the first is extremely true of the production and a credit to their work, I found it troublesome identifying the connection to Romeo and Juliet and struggled mightily to figure out just what the meaning behind Romeo and Toilet was.
Romeo and Toilet is an hour-long blend of colorful vignettes. It relies heavily of the physicality and movements of its performers and very little on dialogue (it is actually almost ten minutes before there is any dialogue spoken). Many of the scenes created by the six-person all-male ensemble are very familiar. Men finding different uses for the toilet (not at all in a crude way). A line of men trying cross a tightrope and falling to their deaths one-by-one. A bunch of women giving birth. A bunch of babies in a room, with pacifiers, trying to communicate with one another. They all have a certain humanity to them and are quite hilarious by themselves. The show seemed to have little to do with Romeo and Juliet itself, though, aside from a few mentions of the names here and there; and, overall, as a cohesive unit, I wracked my brain throughout—trying to dig up some common thread.
However, I did care dearly about finding that thread and that is a tribute to the skill and passion of the ensemble and the direction of Yu Murai. Yu Murai has built his cast into one cohesive unit of independently moving parts. Their synchronicity in movement and energy is extremely impressive.
Relying heavily on physicality and sculpting images (two men sit crouched as a "toilet" for minutes, numerous times throughout the show), their control over their bodies is amazing. The power and passion they bring to enlivening Romeo and Toilet is incomparable. They have formed a perfectly balanced ensemble and their passion makes you care.
Funazo Hasegawa's sound and Yuuji Sekiguchi's lighting work so well with the actors that the elements are almost the seventh and eighth members of the cast.
Romeo and Toilet seems to go in every direction, but if it is anything, it is extremely focused. The performance style they've developed is interesting and engaging. Perhaps, the idea is to let go of the search for meaning, and let the show affect you as it will. Perhaps another watcher will find that common thread where I did not. The tagline of the show is "performance is destructive power" and where I, perhaps, lacked understanding, Romeo and Toilet does not lack that power.