Kaidan Chibusa no Enoki OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Sara Krulwich




Opening Night:
July 7, 2014
July 12, 2014

Theater: Lincoln Center Theater / 150 West 65th Street, New York, NY,


For its Lincoln Center Festival engagement, The Heisei Nakamura-za company has revived a rarely performed 19th-century ghost story, Kaidan Chibusa no Enoki (The Ghost Tale of the Wet Nurse Tree), about the murder of an artist by a handsome samurai who desires the artist’s wife. Nakamura Shido II, who joins the company to perform at the Festival for the first time, plays the villainous samurai; the beautiful wife is played by Shichinosuke II. In a veritable acting tour de force, Kankuro VI plays three devilishly difficult roles—including the artist, one of the key central figures—with lightning-fast transformations, changing from one to another, sometimes within the same scene. Running the emotional gamut from drama to uproarious slapstick comedy, and culminating in a thrilling fight-to-the-death beneath a waterfall, this is Kabuki theater at its most engaging.

  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Kaidan Chibusa no Enoki

    Hovering Ghost, Plunging Water A Kabuki Drama at the Lincoln Center Festival

    Charles Isherwood

    July 8, 2014: “Protect the Prada!” That’s an admonition you might expect to hear screeched over a boozy lunch on the Upper East Side, when a glass of cabernet takes a fall. Instead, it’s being offered with a smile by a genial Japanese actor in a kimono in the Kabuki drama being presented as the opening night offering of this year’s Lincoln Center Festival. He offers the advice while passing out plastic ponchos to the first few rows of audience members, who are soon to be soaked by the overflow of the onstage waterfall that is one of the many lively effects in this splendidly entertaining show, Kaidan Chibusa no Enoki, which translates (rather awkwardly) as The Ghost Tale of the Wet Nurse Tree. Presented by the venerable Heisei Nakamura-za company, a theater whose roots date back several centuries, the production manages the nifty feat of blending Kabuki tradition with contemporary innovation. Despite the language barrier (headphones provide simultaneous translation), the resulting show, at the Rose Theater, easily draws us into an elaborate melodrama about a samurai turned artist, his loving wife, the evil usurper who seduces her and seeks to kill him, and, well, lots more.

  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF Kaidan Chibusa no Enoki

    Traditional kabuki drama gets a bright update in Heisei Nakamura-za company's production at Lincoln Center Festival

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    July 8, 2014: Revenge is a dish served cold — and comical — in Kaidan Chibusa No Enoki (The Ghost Tale of the Wet Nurse Tree). The 19th-century kabuki play packs betrayals, lust and, eventually, a comeuppance, and it’s getting a fresh retelling at the Lincoln Center Festival. In this production, heavy-on-the-starch tradition is whirled together with loosey-goosey contemporary yuks. The tonal mashup is a signature of Heisei Nakamura-za, an esteemed Tokyo theater company that has performed twice before at the internationally flavored fest. This all-male production comes with a couple of clowns who comment on the action between scenes and obsess over their smartphones. Suffice to say that texting gags weren’t part of the play’s run a couple of centuries ago. Then again, neither were headsets for English translations. The highly melodramatic and stylized action focuses on a famous artist who is married, has an infant son and is revered for his vibrant brush strokes. The painter is marked for death by a rival.

  • FINANCIAL TIMES REVIEW OF Kaidan Chibusa no Enoki

    An enthralling display of humour, high spirits and precise movement from the kabuki troupe

    Brendan Lemon

    July 9, 2014: “The cherry blossom festival is so popular this year.” That is the opening line of Kaidan Chibusa no Enoki (The Ghost Tale of the Wet Nurse Tree), from Japan’s Heisei Nakamura-za troupe, and how apt an introduction the sentence is: the production inaugurates another festival – the month-long Lincoln Center Festival – and the mention of cherry blossoms cues us that we are about to enter a world rooted in Japanese custom: kabuki. With humour, high spirits and precise movement, the production enthrals for two-and-a-half hours. Having said that, I must also add that I could never stomach a steady diet of such a stylised world. I remain much too aware of the conventions in place: the bent-kneed stance of the onnagata female roles, taken by men; the tick-tock gait of the ruffian figures; the hearty exchanges of the big-group scenes.

  • NEW YORK POST REVIEW OF Kaidan Chibusa no Enoki

    Ancient ghost tales come to life in ‘Kaidan Chibusa No Enoki’

    Frank Scheck

    July 8, 2014: How do you tell good Kabuki from bad Kabuki? Chances are, you know it when you see it, and New Yorkers have been seeing more of the Japanese art — with its heavily stylized movement and cross-dressing male actors — in the last decade, via Heisei Nakamura-za. The venerable Japanese troupe kicked off the Lincoln Center Festival and its third NY appearance Monday with Kaidan Chibusa No Enoki (The Ghost Tale of the Wet Nurse Tree), a rollicking melodrama based on a 19th-century ghost tale. The story concerns a villainous samurai (Nakamura Shido II) who murders a famed artist because he covets his beautiful wife. In a tour-de-force turn, Nakamura Kankuro VI, one of the sons of the troupe’s late founder, assumes three roles: the artist, who returns as a ghost; his hapless servant and a thief. Nakamura Shichinosuke II, the founder’s other son, plays the preyed-upon wife.



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