Voices of the Wind - The Story of the Ninja (a.k.a. The Ninja Project)

Check out the review on our show at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2005

from www.nytheatre.com/fringeweb/f05review_14

Voices of the Wind reviewed by Jo Ann Rosen, August 2005

Katie Takahashi, playwright, artistic director, and co-composer, embarks on a massive, glorious undertaking with Voices of the Wind - the Story of the Ninja, a cross-cultural work that is still in progress.
In this two-hour performance, powerful feudal lords in 16th century Japan engage Ninja warriors in a civil war to expand their empires.

In this story, Fuga and Kazané, two of the Ninjas, forge a strong relationship when they are young, with Fuga vowing to protect Kazané. if something should happen to her. Over time, two princes, who are half-brothers, reign over separate provinces,and both are goaded into overtaking the territory of the other. As the impetus for war builds, Prince Ukyo meets and falls in love with Kazané. But Kazané is loyal to his brother, Prince Tohkro, and wants to complete her mission for him by killing Prince Ukyo. In doing so, she comes face to face with Fuga.

In Voices, Takahashi has built a cogent narrative around a violent and complex point in history. But, it is much more. It is a musical that brings together Japanese sensibility, the flamenco of Andalusia, blues, and jazz. It is traditional storytelling that connects Eastern and Western cultures. The choreography of Voices fuses traditional Japanese dance forms with modern dance and martial arts. It is also a love story.

Voices is rich in many ways.
There is an Eastern overtone of respect and order. This is evident in the quiet dignity of Allison Hiroto as Kazané, whose character is strong and determined although she never raises her voice to prove it. She plays opposite Daniel Kennedy�fs Fuga, who is in Eastern garb, but whose speech and cadence are modern, Western, less disciplined. The cultural contrast comes up again with shy, modest Prince Ukyo, played by Derek Wong, who is counseled by Heomi Kawage, played with evil brashness by Victor Fischbarg. The visual merging of cultures offers an interesting dimension that reflects today�fs world. Occasionally,Takahashi resorts to clichés to highlight the difference in cultures, such as when one character says, 'What goes around comes around.' This jars. Takahashi is nimble enough with words to come up with contemporary dialog that works with the 16th century setting.

The choreography by Caron Eule is both thoughtful and unpredictable.
It ranges from buoyant leaps onto the stage to fierce and ominous interplay between androgynous dancers to en pointe ballet. Eule maintains space and fluidity, despite the formidable cast of 24. Music, composed by Jon Diaz and Takahashi, adds depth. Derek Wong displays beautiful innocence in his solo�gBeautiful Dancer�h by Takahashi and the sounds and rhythms, particularly from percussionist Mathias Kunzli when he uses whisk brooms, display Diaz's originality.

Takahashi has tapped a number of skilled collaborators to give this complicated setup a sense of cohesiveness. Mizuna Kuwabara, a prolific Japanese author and dramaturg of Voices, co-created the story. Hiromitsu Kuroi, a disciple of Ninja culture and a martial arts expert, supervised production and movement. Ken Kensei choreographed the graceful and varied fight scenes. The simple costumes, designed by Kazuko Takizawa, work beautifully in dance sequences, fight scenes, as well as in the narrative. Sets, by Yusuke Sugizaki, are also simple, using a backlit Japanese screen for crowd scenes and executions, and a short counter as a stone wall or hills over which the nimble dancers leap.

Takahashi is clearly fascinated by this colorful period in Japanese history. By integrating her interest in multicultural performance, choreography, and music, she has taken on a feat no less challenging than the Ninjas. I look forward to the perfected, finished project.

See pictures of the past productions!