After seeing Japan Society’s wonderful JAPAN CUTS, which The New York Times described as including “a healthy selection of recent downers,” and a phenomenal sadomasochistic puppet on Junichiro Tanizaki’s re-imagined Shun-kin, it’s sometimes nice to have a theater- or movie-going experience that makes us laugh and feel good about ourselves. Color of Life was just the ticket.
The first-ever entry from Japan at last month’s Midtown International Theatre Festival, Color of Life is a whimsical tale of two very different people who make an unlikely love connection on an American Airlines flight from Tokyo to JFK.
Rachel (Shino Frances) is a Japanese American suffering through the loss of her lover. After visiting her mother in Japan, she returns to New York to continue pursuing her acting career. Kazuya (Yasuhiro Ito) is a Japanese artist looking for inspiration in New York. Sitting together on the long flight, the two have a conversation – with Rachel doing most of the talking. Kazuya is captivated by Rachel’s charm, and the two begin an improbable relationship.
Rachel suggests that Kazuya live with her while he spends three months in New York on his tourist Visa. The spontaneous decision to become romantically involved with a complete stranger is somewhat confusing for Rachel, who happens to be a lesbian, a fact she keeps secret from Kazuya.
Throughout the musical the couple pursue their careers – Rachel auditioning and Kazuya finding the inspiration to paint. They learn about each other, but more important, they each learn more about themselves during their three months together. After discussing their relationship and their future, Kazuya returns to Japan when his Visa expires.
But a year later, he returns to propose to Rachel, who says, “Yes.” Finally! The happy ending that’s so elusive in Japanese entertainment!
Ito and Frances play more than one role in Color of Life. Ito, an accomplished musician, composed the music while Frances translated the book and lyrics from Japanese into English.
Writer/director Sachiko Ishimaru was delighted and humbled to be a part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival and expressed gratitude for the audience support and response she received for Color of Life. Originally, Ishimaru, the founder of Theatre Polyphonic, was nervous about how the production would go in English. It certainly worked. Thanks to Frances’s superb translation, the New York audience was able to appreciate the love story.
Ito spoke and sang entirely in English, which is no small task for a native Japanese speaker. His enthusiasm was infectious. It was clear that both actors cared deeply about this project, and it was a joy to watch them bring their characters to life.
Color of Life had four performances in New York and will have a run in Japan in its original Japanese.