Kyogen | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The farcical, often satirical Kyogen style developed as part of the ritualistic No theater to provide comic relief between No plays, showing the foolishness of ordinary people and mocking their frailties with rhythmic vocalizations, stylized physical movement, and minutely detailed timing. Often compared to commedia dell'arte, Kyogen has some of the same charm but lacks that form's frenetic energy and loud stereotypes. The Nomura troupe is one of Japan's all-male family-based Kyogen troupes, started when Mansaku Nomura left his father's sake-making business to become an actor. This impulsive act was not as simple as running off to join the circus: because the humor in Kyogen comes from stylized walks, vocal nuances, and small shifts in posture, training often begins at age three or four. It takes years to master the disciplines used to build characters and comedy. Eight generations later, because of their great skill, Mansaku Nomura and his brother Mannosuke have been named "General Intangible Cultural Property" of Japan, an ancient title similar to our "poet laureate." Here the Nomura troupe will perform two folktales entirely in Japanese this weekend. The first gently pokes fun at a greedy boatman who drinks all of his passenger's wine only to discover that his passenger is his son-in-law, and the second mocks a foolish young demon girl who cannot bring herself to eat a handsome mortal and so loses out on a gourmet meal. Northwestern University, Thorne Auditorium, 375 E. Chicago, 773-549-5569. Sunday, December 7, 3 PM. $39-$45.

--Carol Burbank

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): theater still.

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