Rashomon | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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RASHOMON, Theatre Volution Outreach, at the Viaduct Theatre. In this era of delicate multiculturalism, an all-white cast tackling Ryunosuke Akutagawa's Japanese tale (made famous by Akira Kurosawa's film) can expect a level of scrutiny unknown a few decades ago--especially when the production is based on Englishman Ivor Benjamin's 1988 adaptation, complete with faux-Japanese ritualization. Such cultural effrontery makes it difficult to stomach Theatre Volution Outreach's white-bread cast donning slanty-eyed face paint and speaking in the stilted cadences of a Godzilla movie in their attempt to bring Rashomon to life.

But that's actually the least of this production's problems: it creeps along with such portentous humorlessness and indulges in so much unconvincing stylized movement that just staying focused on the story is a chore. And Rashomon is all about storytelling: a husband and wife are attacked by a notorious bandit, and the ensuing tragedy is retold by each in drastically different terms. Under Jimmy McDermott's heavy-handed direction, the actors proclaim every line as though it were carved in marble; this approach supposedly ensures that everything will sound important, but ultimately nothing does. Add to this wearying onslaught an inexplicable accusatory tone (what is the audience doing wrong--listening quietly?), and you've got two hours of unengaging theater.

--Justin Hayford

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