nytheatre.com review by Julie Blumenthal
KyoRyuKan Theater Company's
Smoke is an absolute delight. Melding accomplished dancing, clever,
scrappy characterizations and a sheer joy in performing with multiple
dance techniques and ingenious newsprint costumes, it charms on many
August 15, 2003
From Kyoto under the direction and choreography of Detroit native Peter Golightly, Smoke is inspired by the Japanese Daimonji festival of the spirits, where the dead ride to heaven on the smoke of ritual fires. The piece opens with a confused-seeming young lady (Fumio Toyoda, Spirit One) exploring a newsprint-strewn limbo. Who is she? Where is she? When she is joined by a second (Sumie Sagami, Spirit Two), their simple but universal exchanges make the story clear: they are two spirits waiting to move on, either to heaven or hell. A winning duet follows which spins quickly through sisterhood, jealousy, insecurity, and catfights (and features more fun than I've seen anyone have with newspaper since Gene Kelly).
A heavenly bus driver (Golightly, mixing sly wit and angelic prowess) enters to whisk the spirits off to heaven. Some lovely dancing, including a series of effortless lifts, dominates the next section, which simply and sweetly illuminates the pain of leaving the mortal world behind.
Throughout, Smoke is suffused with humor, joyous performing, and committed choices. Its brevity (it is only 45 minutes long) and simplicity belie some deeply rooted statements about the ethereal nature of mortality and the pull to remain human. Kudos to Golightly and his talented cast, who are equally at home with comedic timing, modern choreography, and classical technique and fuse them all seamlessly. In addition, Adrian Lee and Toru Yamanaka’s original score adds just the right touch, as does Mary Briggs’ simple yet effective lighting.
KyoRyuKan, who also have a second show in the festival (The Fisherman and His Soul), state their goal is "to promote international exchange and understanding through the arts." Smoke succeeds admirably here as well. Whether your interest is international dance theater or Asian culture, I recommend Smoke. In addition, its lightness and shorter length make it highly kid-friendly, and it would be a great introduction to both world performance and concepts of the spirit for younger FringeNYC-goers.