THE FISHERMAN AND HIS SOUL
nytheatre.com review by Sheila Lewandowski
I am a sucker for a good story and The Fisherman and His Soul is
just that. The KyoRyuKan Theater Company from Japan, led by director
Peter Golightly, performs this adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s story with
August 15, 2003
Three days prior to opening day the lead actor’s father passed away and he returned to Japan to be with his family. Had the director not told me after the show, I would not have guessed it from the performances. The director (slated to perform as the 2nd puppeteer) filled in as the Soul/Narrator and a brave actress, Sumi Sagami, threw herself into the roll of the 2nd Puppeteer.
The story begins with the Fisherman (Adrian Jevick) netting the beautiful puppet mermaid (puppeteer Sachiko Miyata) and falling in love with her. She is unable to return his love as long as he keeps his human soul and so begins his quest to release his soul. This spiritual journey, testing the strength of love, brings him to a witch (also beautifully played by Sachiko Miyata, although it was at times difficult to understand her through her heavy accent) whose desire to be with him compels her to agree to help him release his soul if he dances with her under the full moon. The scenes between the Witch and the Fisherman are some of my favorites. The dancing, using classical Indian foot stomping, accompanied by live music (performed by Yasuko Imai and Dean Bland) is tense and exciting.
The Fisherman uses a spell given to him by the witch to cast his soul away from his body. The soul returns to the shore where the Fisherman lives with his Mermaid once every year and tries to convince the Fisherman that he needs his soul. Finally, the soul tempts the Fisherman away from the shore with the promise of seeing an incredible young dancer with magnificent feet. I leave it to you to discover what happens next.
In all fairness, not all went well with the show I attended: the pace was sometimes slow, I couldn’t understand all of the spoken text, and some of the shadow puppetry was lost due to the light streaming in through the stained glass windows of the church where this was being performed. But in spite of all of this, I was moved. I was moved by the story, the performance, the company of actors, musicians, dancers, puppeteers and their techies. They are true storytellers and professionals.