Review by Brittany Crowell
It begins with the simplest of constructs (tell us about a failure …), and leads to an intimate and personal reflection and healing, as Aya Ogawa lets us bear witness to her fractured relationship with her father: exploring their history, his death, and how we mourn and honor those we may have struggled to love in life.
The Nosebleed, written and directed by, and starring Ogawa, runs this summer at Lincoln Center’s LCT3 Theater. Ogawa has taken themselves out of the story and inserted four incredibly unique voices (played energetically by Drae Campbell, Ashil Lee, Soari Tsukada, and Kaili Y. Turner) to encompass the various parts of her being, personality, and relationship with her family. The actors bring different tones to the character of Aya, while openly presenting each piece of the story with an awareness of perspective and form. Performers announce as they step into the role of Aya or others within the narrative, and Ogawa cleverly acknowledges her own narrative bias by pointing out moments of mis-memory or potential mis-information.
The stage, set by designer Jian Jung, contains a lonely office set-up (desk, chair bookshelf), placed along a series of white flats which move periodically backwards, the further we get within the fabric of the play and the distance between father and daughter. Throughout the piece, the stage is peppered with the many chairs that her father placed throughout the house and other pieces of furniture or props that help to tell the story, remaining otherwise as a blank canvas on which the actors paint a picture of a man, a relationship, and a failing.
At the top of the piece, each performer shares a moment of failure and the audience is invited to do the same. Throughout the story, the audience are asked to raise their hand if they have shared an experience that Aya is depicting – Do you love your father? Have you lost a parent? – While we are sitting in a theater watching performers on the stage, it almost feels as if the house lights never truly go down, but the audience is asked to bear witness publicly and take active part in the failing and cleansing process.
As Aya agonizes over all that she never learned, all that she didn’t ask, the audience is asked to also ruminate on their own relationship with their father: what they wish they could have said, and are asked to be held accountable by noting on paper what they would ask if given the chance. At the close of the play, the communal Ayas (now inclusive of both actor and audience) perform a ritualistic burying of the father in the Buddhist tradition.
The Nosebleed is simple; it’s charming and poignant. It pulls you in with its simplicity and lets you into a vast cavern of pain, love, and healing. More than many pieces of theater I’ve seen of late, it felt like a communal experience, a group catharsis. We are all Ayas in our own way, with our own questions and failures, and how wonderful to be able to watch such a beautiful healing and honoring. It brought me – much to my surprise – to uncontrollable tears with its beauty, honesty, and simplicity. I highly recommend you make your way to see The Nosebleed at LCT3.
THE NOSEBLEED –
Written and directed by Aya Ogawa
FEATURING: Drae Campbell, Ashil Lee, Chris Manley, Aya Ogawa,Saori Tsukada, and Kaili Y. Turner.
Set and Costumes by Jian Jung; lighting by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew; sound by Megumi Katayama; stage management by Leah B. Pye. Presented by Lincoln Center Theater at the Claire Tow: André Bishop, artistic director; Adam Siegel, managing director; Hattie Jutagir, executive director of development & planning; Evan Cabnet, artistic director of LCT3. Through August 28, 2022 at the Claire Tow Theater (150 W 65th Street). www.lct.org/shows/nosebleed/