Third StreetTheatre Series

Bangs and Buddha

Dates 19 April - 5 May 2007, 8pm Venue Presentation House Theatre Reviewer John Jane

Bangs and Buddha is a new, single-act play by the creative team of Kendra Fanconi, Eric Rhys Miller and Maiko Bae Yamamoto. It follows the improbable friendship that develops between Hillary, a flamboyant transsexual entertainer and Akiko, an over-achieving student from a traditional Japanese family.

When these diametrically opposite character’s lives suddenly intersect in the Takeshita Dori shopping district of Tokyo, nothing thereafter remains the same. They each find themselves curiously drawn into the other’s world. Hillary takes to Buddhism and embraces its minimalist lifestyle, while Akiko sheds her conventional urbanity to become an Harajuku girl. As is often the case with contrasting Eastern and Western cultures, this relationship is not without imbroglios. As a westerner, Hillary doesn’t understand the importance of obligation that Akiko does. When he fails to support her and then shows no remorse, she becomes angry and forces him to leave her apartment.

Eric Rhys Miller and Donna Soares play the respective roles of Hillary and Akiko. The dialogue calls for the actors to speak directly to the audience as well as each other and both execute this technique with considerable charm.

Miller offers a nuanced performance as a jaded drag queen, frequently giving rise to surreal comic foibles. However, he does at times look perceptibly awkward; particularly in the opening scene dressed in high heels and a magenta wig.

Soares is physically closer to her character; her poignant portrayal of a whimsical adolescent perplexed by life’s crossroads is excellent.

Nita Bowerman and Lindsay Reoch are credited only as “stagehands” - a little unfair perhaps. They support the main actors in a multiplicity of roles from Harajuku girls to ninja clad prop movers, almost invisible, when camouflaged against Mima Preston’s stark, black set.

Preston’s costumes show creativity and imagination in interpreting the distinctive hybrid styles of the Harajuku district. Wendy Bross Stuart’s incidental Japanese music sounds authentic enough to be original and provides a melodic counterpoint to Alexander Brendan Ferguson’s entertaining concoction of western pop.

Director and co-writer, Kendra Fanconi seems to have found her voice in this allegorical tale about wandering souls who find temporary euphoria in an exotic world.

© 2007 John Jane