Review – THE ROOM NOBODY KNOWS at Japan Society

Open the door to The Room Nobody Knows and take a look into the deviant mind of theater director Kuro Tanino, a former psychiatrist born into a family of psychiatrists in rural Toyama, Japan.

A sleepy sheep and a hungry pig work diligently to stage a room, putting penis-shaped furniture in place and polishing it with vigor. The room is designed by perpetual student Kenji as a surprise birthday present for his beloved older brother.  Kenji can’t concentrate on his studies because his mind is occupied by his desire for his brother, and his hands are occupied with creating penis-shaped objects in his brother’s likeness.

A semi-autobiographical drama based on Tanino’s childhood memories of growing up the second of three sons, The Room Nobody Knows, which began its five-show run at Japan Society on January 8, is filled with his deep-seeded desires. After self-analysis and personal reflection (and leaving the business of psychiatry behind), Tanino and his company, Niwa Gekidan Penino, staged the first production of the play in his own cramped apartment in Tokyo two years ago. Japan Society Artistic Director Yoko Shioya attended one of those performances and subsequently brought the play – complete with the phallic props – to New York, where it’s part of The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival

The Room Nobody Knows, Japan Society, NYC, Kuro Tanino, play, playwright, Niwa Gekidan Penino

Niwa Gekidan Penino, The Room Nobody Knows directed by Kuro Tanino at Japan Society. Photo by Julie Lemberger.

Japan Society’s stage affords Tanino more room than his apartment, adding an extra three feet in width. The set is two levels, the surprise room upstairs, and a lab-like basement space that is tall enough only to sit, not stand. This smaller area, Kenji’s study, holds shelves of penises and Kenji’s codpiece creations.

The climax – no pun intended – gives us the four characters playing a rousing rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon in D on shakuhachis shaped like – you guessed it – penises.

It’s absurd and funny and quite entertaining. Despite being a little disturbing, The Room Nobody Knows is a must-see.

The Room Nobody Knows, Japan Society, NYC, Kuro Tanino, play, playwright, Niwa Gekidan Penino

Niwa Gekidan Penino, The Room Nobody Knows directed by Kuro Tanino at Japan Society. Photo by Julie Lemberger.