By: Alix Cohen
March 22, 2023: The Hunting Gun, a poem written by the prologue narrator, was derided when published as too sensitive for a gun magazine. Months later, its author received a letter from Josuke Misugi, the hunter he’d seen in a mist, about whom he’d unwittingly written. Then, three more from Misugi, each authored by a different woman deeply affected by him.
Having read her mother’s diary after the woman’s suicide, the first is from his mistress’s young daughter Shoko. Suddenly this man she’s comfortably known for years, the man who managed her mother’s funeral, is revealed to have provoked her parents’ divorce and mother’s death. “Sorrows rush in at me from every direction.” She recalls some of the past in new light. “Is this the beautiful and glorious thing they call love?” There’s reflection and despair, but no anger. She asks a favor.
The second is from Misugi’s wife, Midori, his mistress’s cousin and friend, the girl’s beloved aunt. It seems she accidentally found out and had her own affair. Their marriage was not a good one. Portrayal is sensual. Midori describes her last meeting with Saiko. “This has reached a conclusion.” She wants a divorce.
Occasionally the man and woman look towards one another as if feeling itself could travel.
The third is from Saiko, Misugi’s mistress of 13 years. “I want to give you my real self.” Riddled with the burden of “sin,” having been confronted by Midori, a kind of horrible relief, she can no longer go on. He is her great love. She’s grateful. “Please don’t be angry…” Saiko executes a formal custom of readying herself. It’s quite beautiful. Depiction of the relationship is brought to a visually poetic end.
The piece is stirring, economic, and deftly written if just a bit too long. Production minimalism serves it with respect and understanding.
Miki Nakatani is extraordinary. She inhabits each of the three women with grace, subtlety, and wrenching emotion. We’re with her every step.
As the Misugi, Mikhail Baryshnikov says not a word yet compels us to watch. Movement is understated and slow. The actor’s face embodies a wealth of varied suffering.
Director François Girard keeps us riveted to his splendid actors. Volumes are spoken with movement and expression. Focus is intense. Characterization translates. The last portion of the play is theatrically operatic.
Each woman/letter has its own set floor. First is a lily pond, literally water, through which the actress steps intermittently lighting incense sticks. The second is all flat, grey stones which sound as they shift beneath her feet. The third, a metamorphosis incredible to watch, is wood planks. Each iteration metaphorically fits a monologue. Behind, downstage and raised, through a translucent scrim with Japanese excerpts of the letters, we see a Misugi (with his rifle), the axis on which three lives turned. Marvelous. (François Séguin)
Lighting by David Finn is nuanced and controlled. Misugi appears in varying stages of light, semi-dark, and gradual black out. Each woman is painted with the medium like a Raphael.
Costumes (Renée April) are just right and transition fluidly.
Music (Alexander MacSween) is haunting and so symbiotic, one often doesn’t notice sound, only effect.
Emanuela Barilla presents
Yasushi Inoue’s The Hunting Gun
Adapted for the stage by Serge Lamothe
Directed by François Girard
Miki Nakatani and Mikhail Baryshnikov
Performed in Japanese with English supertitles
Opening Photo: Stephanie Berger
Through April 15, 2023
The Baryshnikov Arts Center
450 west 37th Street