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New York City - Theatre


Fuerza Bruta
Tuesday 8:00pm
Wednesday 8:00pm
Thursday 8:00pm
Friday 8:00pm & 10:30pm
Saturday 7:00pm & 10:00pm
Sunday 7:00pm
Daryl Roth

Reviewed by Shawn C. Harris

Bring your raincoat, wear comfortable shoes, and pack light. You will scream at the top of yor lungs. You will dance ilke a maniac. Fuerza Bruta is no place for people who want to sit on the sidelines and merely observe with a cynical eye.

It's tempting to want to impose a structure on a live performance. The storyteller in all of us wants to know why this follows that, what this visual or song means, how they all fit together. You could say that Fuerza Bruta is an aerial dance performance, but there are plenty of moments when all the real action takes place on the ground.

Fuerza Bruta resists these attempts to step outside the experience. It overwhelms with sounds, visions, and textures. And it keeps things moving throughout its 70-minute duration. One minute you're watching a man (Daniel Case) running a long a platform as trance music throbs in your ears. The next minute you see two dancers in mid-air running back and forth along a silvery cylinder like two frenzied sprites. And then you're touching hands with the performers as they float and slide across a suspended water tank, as graceful as sea turtles.

The performers themselves bring remarkable energy to the event. The exuberance of each participant was so powerful I could almost touch it. There was a wildness, an inexaustible vitality to how they moved that made you want to join in with them. It was clear that they were having the time of their lives as they danced, floated through the air, and played in the water.

Even the sets were inspiring. Whether it's the Swiss clockwork timing of chairs sliding on a platform, the daredevil aura of a trampoline spinning in mid-air, or a flowing silvery sheet floating above the audience like a ghost, Fuerza Bruta instills wonder through its use of space and light as much as it does through movement and sound. More than merely a performance, Fuerza Bruta's sets make it clear that what you're not just seeing a performance, but participating in an experience.

You would think that herding the audience around a dark room would break the enchantment. Not so. And this is in no small part due to the capable crew who ushered people to safe viewing places while allowing the energy of the performance to continue. Their watchful non-involvement helped the audience to connect with the experience not just through sight and sound, but touch as well. As the event progressed, it became clear: in Fuerza Bruta, we're not just observers or participants; we're part of the entire experience.

Fuerza Bruta captures the essence of what live performance means. It's impossible to merely describe what Fuerza Bruta is. You have to experience it.

Ticket Price: $72.00; $25.00 rush - 212-239-6200; 800-432-7250 For more information:

Daryl Roth Theatre| 20 Union Square East
New York, NY 10003

Noh: Modern Dance & Multimedia-Infused
Adaptation of Hamlet
Thursday - Saturday at 7:30 PM
Sunday at 2:30 PM
January 29 - February 8
La MaMa

Reviewed by Shawn C. Harris

An engaging new take on an old classic

If you go to Company East's production of Hamlet expecting a faithful rendition of Shakespeare's text, you'll miss out on the best parts of the show. Company East's rendition of Shakespeare's most popular tragedy offers something far more interesting. Watching it is like looking at a funhouse mirror version of the original story – in a good way.

With little dialogue (and most of it Japanese) and relying mostly on movement, director Kenji Kawarasaki immerses us in the world of Shakespeare's play, keeping our attention focused on the powerful undercurrents beneath the elevated language of the original text. The result is a riveting performance that reveals new dimensions to this familiar classic.

Ingenious use of lighting and sound orchestrates an atmosphere of confusion, madness, and torment. The storm starting the play plunges us into the tempestuous Danish court. As the play progresses, red and orange lights play on the stage and the actors, an all-consuming flame reflecting the hellish state of their lives.

All the actors bring something interesting to their roles. Hiiroshi Jin displayed impressive range as Hamlet. He embodies the Prince of Denmark's extremes, and you can believe him as a son, a poet, a lover, and a madman. Sho Tohno brings genuine creepiness to his portrayal of Claudius and palpable rage to the ghost of Hamlet's father. But Ophelia (Yoko Tomabechi) really took my breath away. Her transformation from innocence to torment was fascinating to watch. I was enthralled as I watched her limbs move from playful grace to twitchy nervousness and finally to flailing like a woman drowning.

That's not to say that Company East's Hamlet is perfect. There were moments when the troupe's attempts to highlight Shakespeare's language were more distracting than engaging. For instance, there were times throughout the play when a screen displayed lines from Shakespeare's text while the actors perform on stage. To an audience already familiar with Hamlet's plot and its most famous lines, the effort comes off as redundant, distracting us from the truly original and engaging work the actors are doing. And the attempts to capture the nuances of Shakespeare's words – especially Hamlet's soliloquies – fell completely flat. The irony wasn't lost on some members of the audience. When the performers remained true to the Japanese elements of their performance, they shined. But when they tried to faithfully reconstruct parts of the original text, the results were at best awkward and at worst laughable.

But the best part of the show came after the end. The lead actor (Hiroshi Jin) gave a touching speech that revealed how profoundly moved he was by the play, how much he loved acting, and how proud he was to be a part of this production. And as we left the theater, we were met with the actors themselves standing in the lobby, dressed in full costume, greeting us and thanking us for coming to the show. In a time when a “No Flash Cameras” sign is the most direct contact the audience gets from the actors, this display of modesty and humanity is a moving reminder about the true value of live theater: real people sharing real space together.

Tickets are $25 / $20 for students & seniors, available at 212-475-7710 or

La MaMa ETC 74A East Fourth Street
Between Bowery and 2nd Avenue, accessible from the F & V trains at 2nd Ave).


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