Now that privileged city dwellers have it easier than any humans did before, the problem of fulfillment looms larger than ever.
Toshiki Okada’s The Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise, which the Play Company stages at JACK, examines the tormenting wish for more. The story orbits the yearnings of a young couple: He dreams his girlfriend is dead (it’s not that he doesn’t love her, he just wishes his humdrum existence could be infused with bittersweet nostalgia); she spends her days fantasizing foreign vacations she never takes. But real life is what’s happening while they make other plans.
Drifting with a daydream’s fractal logic, the text passes among five actors, skipping between genders and perspectives. One moment a performer speaks from within an experience; the next, another describes the same scene from outside. The shifting viewpoints capture the chasm between inner urges and external realities.
Mimi Lien’s set — an eloquently drab waiting room — encapsulates the oppressive in-between-ness haunting Okada’s characters. Director Dan Rothenberg likewise stages intervals of beautiful uncertainty: Actors awkwardly eye the audience as though unsure what comes next.
Maybe it’s our fate to always wish for more, but Okada hints that something more is all around us, if only we could step outside ourselves and see.