Five Days in March Tracks Tokyo Hipsters in Time of War
Where were you when the bombs started dropping on Baghdad? The hipsters in Toshiki Okadas surreal Five Days in Marchnow being staged by Witness Relocation at La MaMawere hanging out and hooking up, attending desultory protests and grappling with quiet conflicts. For these bystanders to history, events occurring elsewhere charged an otherwise humdrum swathe of time with strange significance.
Okadas five days span the last hours of the Iraq war countdown, and the barrages onset, in March 2003. Amid the upheaval, six young Tokyo denizens enact minor-key versions of geopolitical events. In the plays main thread, Minobe and Yukki meet at a club and repair to a love hotel for the next five daysa sexual shock-and-awe campaignbefore parting without ever exchanging names. Meanwhile, Miffy, a blogger flummoxed by insecurities, fails to conquer Minobes friend Azube during a fraught encounter. Two others follow the anti-war protest that wends through all the narrativesbut carefully stay near the back, far from scary activist-types.
The performers step in and out of multiple charactersoffhandedly narrating into a mic, then slipping casually into scenes. (A miracle of transposed idiom, Aya Ogawas translation captures the studied nonchalance of New York cool-speak.) The relay style suggests that these slackers could be anyone. Meandering conversations and glancing liaisons happened all over the world as destruction began: the background noise of history. Juxtaposing world-changing events with private crises heightens the pathos of characters small triumphs and failuresevanescent, like performance.
Director Dan Safers choreographies beautifully embody this idea, finding enlarged meanings for quotidian gestures: two performers shifting in chairs becomes a unison dance showing a transitory meeting of minds; staging the psychic turmoil wrought by a minor romantic crash-and-burn, Safer amplifies awkward twitches to melodramatic pitch.
In a stunning flourish, Miffy resolves to leave human foibles behind, blasting off into the stratospherecueing a plaintive silver spacesuited rendition of Bowies Is There Life on Mars?
During the pieces hushed final moments, Minobe and Yukki say goodbye against a projected photograph of a busy Japanese street. Till now, weve heard their story through shaky recollections, but as it ends, we fleetingly see their farewell unfold in real time, in a real placeand then theyre gone. For a second, their ephemeral travails acquire epic scopeas big as any battle or disaster.
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