“Kwaidan” a chilling production of ancient Japanese folklore


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Kelly Langin

UNO Theatre concluded their 2015-2016 season with “Kwaidan,” a mesmerizing tale weaving ancient Japanese folklore throughout the Weber Fine Arts building. “Kwaidan,” which translates to “ghost stories” in English, is truly a theatrical journey. Instead of having the audience sit down, the entire production takes place in different rooms throughout the theater, using architecture and stairwells to contribute to the stories.

The production was sold out, although the audience was only a small collection of around 20 people.

This small number allowed movement from room to room, even though for the first half, we were split up so the actors could save time telling individual stories before we all gathered in the large room for the final scenes.

With this often literally hands-on approach, you grab more than what a standard stage play can provide. The actors looked you in the eye, completely breaking the fourth wall, and asked you to participate by tearing up a “haunted” letter or try on a ghost’s cloak.

There wasn’t much for set design, but in one room, the audience stood around a circle of heavy-duty fans. An actor entered the middle of the circle as technicolor lights shone on the metallic fabric she carried. She threw the fabric into the air, and the fans helped the shimmery fabric twist and create a vision of color.

Few laughs emerged from the audience during the oft-horrific “Kwaidan,” but it certainly wasn’t its intention to create comedic relief. The depressing and sometimes horrific tales evoked feelings of wonder and garnered in-terest from the audience. It was a little difficult to follow the stories sometimes because they were so scattered, but many of the folktales were paralleled with others.

The actors did not break character in any scenes, even as they approached members of the surrounding audience throughout, looking them in the eye and asking questions. The entire production posed uncertainty throughout, which added to the eerie air of the horrific folklore tales.