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Friday, Dec. 5, 2008

'Kuroneko' plays on Poe's thriller

Special to The Japan Times

One of Japan's most in-demand young creators, 38-year-old visual designer and film director Shutaro Oku, is currently debuting as a theater director with "Kuroneko," his adaptation of 19th century American author Edgar Allan Poe's short thriller masterpiece "The Black Cat."

News photo
Thriller: "Kuroneko," Shutaro Oku's adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Black Cat," runs in Tokyo until Dec. 8. (C) YOICHI TANUMA

Though this production at the New National Theatre in Hatsudai, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo is Oku's first role as a stage director, he is already well known in the theater world as an award-winning visual designer who has regularly collaborated with such luminaries as Hideki Noda, Yukio Ninagawa and Suzuki Matsuo. In addition, he's lately started to direct live events featuring shamisen (Japanese three-stringed lute), piano and electric organ, as well as stagings of contemporary dance and calligraphy performances.

In this performance, Oku has dramatized one of his favorite novels and turned it into an original play set in a small apartment in an industrial town in Japan.

Whereas the original story, first published in an 1843 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, was about a drunken man of questionable sanity who accidentally kills his wife and tries to cover his crime, Oku's protagonist is a nearly blind, divorced and lonely young mother whose little boy accidentally dies.

With simple stage sets onto which Oku projects a variety of imaginative visual effects, accompanied by emotive sound effects, Oku's maiden offering paints a powerful picture of its tragic heroine's insane inner world that will almost certainly not be the last time this multitalented artist ventures out as a theater director.

"Kuroneko" runs until Dec. 8 at the New National Theatre, a two-minute walk from Hatsudai Station on the Keio New Line. For more details, call Ticket Space at (03) 3234-9999 or visit kuroneko.tv or www.okushutaro.com

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