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Friday, Dec. 12, 2008

Marriage is no bed of roses

Special to The Japan Times

This is great news for all those who have despaired at the tiny portion of straightforward, high-quality, "grownup" stage entertainment that gets served up to theatergoers in Japan — as opposed to all those dollops of third-rate faux Broadway and facile star vehicles.

News photo
Packed: Kiichi Nakai and Keiko Toda play a middle-aged couple in trouble in Koki Mitani's "Good Night Sleep Tight" at the Parco Theatre in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.

Written and directed by Koki Mitani — the celebrated king of comedy and an astonishing hit-maker through his stage, cinema and TV writing and directing — "Good Night Sleep Tight" may only have a cast of two, but it's sure to touch a large number of cohabiting (and divorced) audience members' lives. The lasting, warm applause for performances now running at the Parco Theatre in Shibuya appear to confirm that 47-year-old Mitani has worked his magic again.

In this play, which he also directs, Mitani presents seven scenes from the 30-year married life of a middle-aged couple, played by Kiichi Nakai and Keiko Toda. The tale starts with the end, as the wife has finished packing her bags and is about to leave the couple's bedroom — while her soon-to-be ex-husband lies mute in bed, seemingly in shock.

Such, we see, is the climax of married life for these two perfectly — probably too perfectly — normal, nice people who we get to spy on in other episodes from different stages in their relationship. All seven scenes are in the bedroom, however, the positioning of their beds is significantly different in each scene.

In this enthralling play, Mitani brilliantly entertains, while also posing absorbing questions, such as whether being too pure and (even) honest may actually be the kiss of death for coupledom. Instead, he seems to be suggesting, with an abundance of wit, that everything — including people's minds — must be changing all the time, so that life as a couple is never quite what either party expects.

Mitani is superbly served by great performances from both Nakai and Toda, while the live, original music adds an elegant atmosphere to the proceedings.

"Good Night Sleep Tight" runs until Dec. 28 at the Parco Theatre, an eight-minute walk from JR Shibuya Station. It then goes to Osaka from Jan. 6-20 at the Sankei Hall Breeze. For more details, call the Parco Theatre at (03) 3477-5858, or visit www.parco-play.com

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