by Todd Wellman
click on photos
“AmijimA”was given its world premiere at Off The Wall Theatre in June 2007. In a Japan crumbling under Western influence, a poor paper merchant deserts his wife and children for the love of a male prostitute, Asagao! The merchant’s brother disguises himself as a Samurai and visits the prostitute to prove Asagao’s unfaithfulness. A wealthy member of the new and powerful Japanese business class also seeks Asagao’s favors and is willing to use bribery and bullying to get his way. The paper merchant’s devoted wife, is torn between duty to her family, loyalty to her husband, and her own feelings. Out of this complex mixture of fascinating characters and motives comes a love story of monumental proportions told in the simple stylized manner of Japanese Theatre.
The play is earthy and erotic, filled with a lust for life and love. Westerners uninitiated in Japanese Art, may be surprised how “colorful and descriptive” the sexual language can be, just as they are sometimes a bit shocked when they first view Japanese erotic paintings. Over a dozen original songs penned for the show with music by Todd Wellman and lyrics by Gutzman, maintain an Asian flavor but are Western in melody and style. Gutzman’s goal is to open up this amazing classic story to Western audiences in a fresh, entertaining way. Off the Wall Theatre’s Scenic Designer David Roper worked with Gutzman to create a marvelous puzzle box set with screens folding every which way and rooms opening within rooms. Special effects included an on stage snow storm.
The cast of almost twenty featured Joe Fransee as Asagao, the male prostitute whose unrelenting love is the catalyst for everything that follows, Jeremy Welter as the paper merchant, Heather Reynolds as his wife, Al Dobyns as his brother, Tom Welcenbach as Tahei, the ruthless businessman, Lawrence Lukasavage as the brothel owner, Sharon Rise as the merchant’s mother-in-law, and Kristin Pagenkopf as Shiguri a town prostitute. Pagenkopf was also choreographer for the show whose dances included an intricate wooden clog dance done to a festive number entitled “KNOCK WOOD!”
One of Milwaukee’s finest talents, the versatile David Flores played the narrator of the story and also sliped neatly into several roles. The always in demand Chris Wszalek served as Music Director. Local costume wizard Ginny Jenkins created two dozen authentic costumes in startling colors and materials for the piece.
AmijimA was romantic, colorful, funny, tragic, and visually spectacular. All of this in the tiny Off the Wall Theatre Space!
or phone the theatre at (414) 327-3552
with reserved seating
are only $100
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