Review by David Walters

Impulsive Japanese absurdist farce.  

I can’t think of any other way to describe what I saw the other night.  It’s wild, it’s zany, it’s technically astute, smashing together eastern and western theatrical practices steeped in history into an absurdist tale with reminiscences, for me, of Sarte, ancient Kyogen practices, and the film Parasite.

The writer/director/star, Hideki Noda, is the artistic director of Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre and has won every major drama award in Japan, including the Asahi Prize, and is an Honorary Officer of the British Empire because of his work promoting international exchange in the theatrical arts.  He lithely brings a lifetime in the world of the theater to focus on One Green Bottle now playing at La Mama.  It’s a gender-swapping circus of misalignment; in other words, a delight.

A family, consisting of husband (Bo), wife (Boo) and daughter (Pickle) all want to go out for the evening to a clandestine engagement they are too embarrassed to tell each other the truth about.  Problem, their dog (Princess) is about to give birth to a litter at any moment and responsibly, someone should stay home to care for her.  Awareness of this one responsibility is about the only thing this family can agree on.  What ensues is an over-the-top slapstick family feud that would make Steve Harvey jealous.

Hideki Noda, as the wife Boo, is a technical marvel as he spins, twists and pratfalls his way around the wonderfully slippery set designed by Yukio Horio.  The strongly effective lighting and technical electrics by Christopher Wagner add surprise and force to highlight dramatic moments in the plot. The colorful costumes, designed by Kodue Hibino were covertly expressive, immediately designating character but free-flowing enough to allow the actors to bodily fling themselves all over the stage.  Glyn Pritchard as Pickle, the daughter, was a delicious delight as he slid and danced over the set pieces, all with one-eye on his cell phone and the next opportunity for a selfie. Lilo Bauer as husband Bo (a world-renowned master of the classic stage), quotes Shakespeare and hangs doggedly on to his childhood memory of shaking hands with the world-renowned master Mouse we all know and mostly love.

The family’s (and in a way, us as well) failure to take any responsibility for the future has dire consequences for all.  In the end, they become each other’s No Exit as the play devolves into a critical mass of absurdity and crashes into darkness with chains, dead puppies, and the futility of crying out in the wilderness that is life.  

Though not for everyone, as a theater buff and if you’re questioning, I urge you to go, broaden your horizons about what is possible, and be part of something truly worthwhile that you won’t easily forget.

One Green Bottle, written and directed by Hideki Noda, English translation adapted by Will Sharpe

Cast: Hideki Noda (Boo), Lilo Baur (Bo), Glyn Pritchard (Pickle), Genichiro Tanaka (Musician)

Creative Team: Set Design – Yukio Horio; Lighting Design – Christoph Wagner; Costume Design – Kodue Hibino; Composer – Denzaemon Tanaka XIII; Sound Design – Marihiko Hara

At La Mama, 66 East 4th Street (btwn 2nd and Bowery), through March 8.

70-minutes running time with no intermission.