Rebekah Heeden, Contributing Writer
The performance of “Ghost Stories at Yotsuya” was lively and it demonstrated the teamwork involved in putting together a show with such intense stage effects and violence. The cast was clearly involved emotionally and each character was fully devoted and successfully engaged with the audience.
The play took place from Feb. 27 through March 3 in Strebel Auditorium, which was almost filled to capacity on opening night.
The set included a traditional Japanese style stage with huts and golden trees. There was also a significant amount of fog to enhance the eerie ambiance of the show. The major color theme of the sets included red, black, gold, tan and teal.
The play opened with three actors walking down the right aisle towards the stage in modern day clothing. As they walked up the steps that represented the entrance to a house, they entered and turned away from the audience walking over the seemingly wobbly set onto the raised stage.
The stage, which was raised four degrees from back to front, included different colored tiles along with clear ones to allow light to pass through and give an eerie effect.
To add to the chilling ambiance, a significant amount of fog was used to cloud the stage. Curtains and mosquito netting were also used to add to the play’s mysterious mood.
Throughout the play, the mixture of both modern day influences and ancient Japanese influences was interesting but slightly confusing at times. Overall the plot was easy to follow. However, had I not known that the characters dressed in camouflage meant that they were representing Samurai soldiers, I would not have understood the depth of the plot.
It was interesting that the costuming of this play was all modernized except for one red kimono that was used. The modernization of these costumes was meant to avoid any type of stereotyping, which, in my opinion worked well.
Another influence was that of the parasol held by Iemon, which was distinctly Japanese.
Throughout the play there were many instances where the actors portrayed scary and dark characters that were haunting Iemon because of his wickedness toward them. Unfortunately, the audience did not react to the actors’ portrayals with fear or even a sense of uneasiness. Instead, a steady laugh was heard throughout the audience during many serious moments.
With what seemed like buckets of fake blood, excellent 3D makeup and lighting, as well as a splash zone, it was difficult to understand why the audience would laugh. The closest the audience was to being scared was toward the end, but even then they were simply startled.
With props such as hyper-realistic baby dolls and a giant, creepy rat, the audience should have been more afraid but the fine line between making the audience uncomfortable resulting in laughter and actually scaring them was too thin and resulted in the opposite of what was expected.
Another interesting aspect of this play was that the actors never broke the fourth wall, meaning the actors never spoke or interacted with the audience.
Many crazy, and sometimes scary, special effects were used to make the performance interesting. At one point a sword was thrown and magically stuck into a board on the opposite side of the stage. This precariously perched sword later resulted in the death of Iowa, who later haunts Iemon until his death at the end of the play. The use of secret stage doors for the rat and for the appearances of Iowa as the ghost also enabled the play to be more interesting.