Christine Jamlig (Lady), Ogie Zulueta (Bandit), and Jomar Tagatac (Samurai) star in Rashomon. (Courtesy of Ubuntu Theater Project)

SF Weekly: Exhaling the Breath of Life

Ubuntu Theater Project’s ‘Rashomon’ builds on the short story that Akira Kurosawa’s film made famous.

Pages of crumpled typewriter paper form a crude circle around the set of Philip Kan Gotanda’s Rashomon. It looks like a messy white nest made from a thousand origami cranes that have come crashing to the ground. Three characters make a circle of their own as they walk around the man who’s imagined them into being. The author, Akutagawa (Steven Ho), is about to involve them all in a story told from their own points of view.

To shape his play, Gotanda exhumes the source material — “In a Grove” and “Rashomon” — two short stories by Japanese author Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Unlike Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film adaptation of the same name, the playwright fictionalizes the author’s ghost and includes him in the narrative as an occasionally benevolent and occasionally sadistic puppet-master. When he breathes in and — dramatically — out, his characters, formerly in a state of repose, spring to life. …

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