Oh yeah, what about the war?

Witness Relocation is playfully presenting the English language premiere of Five Days in March, written by Japanese writer/director Toshiki Okada and translated by Aya Ogawa. Written in 2004, Five Days in March is an almost love story set in the days leading up the US invasion of Iraq. Two strangers, Yukki and Minobe, meet at a rock show and spend five days in a love hotel, leaving only to grab a meal and purchase more condoms. Much of the escapades are re-told to the audience. The bulk of the play is direct address and the production is an intimate combination between stand-up comedy and open-mic night. While Will Petre and Kourtney Rutherford eventually portray Yukki and Minobe, the other actors tell us about Yukki and Minobe long before we meet them. Mike Mikos sets up the evening for the audience, trying to open the story in a very casual roundabout monologue. In fact, the specter of the casual is evident throughout the production—casual sex, a casual anti-war protest, a casual war.

Overall, this is a well-crafted event under the direction of Witness Relocation’s artistic director Dan Safer. Heather Christian gives a divine performance as Miffy, the overly awkward and intense young woman who moves to Mars after being snubbed for the last time. Christian brought the most range, nuance and variety to her role. I would have enjoyed a greater balance between the actor’s conversation with the audience and the inclusion of the ensemble work and dance numbers. The production was weighted more to the extended monologue, which came close to tedious as the ensemble dance numbers were infrequent.

It is not until second act that we actually have the opportunity to see Yukki and Minobe in conversation at the said Shibuya love hotel and this moment is a splendid theatrical blurring of time and space. Mikos is telling us about the couple and then finds himself in conversation with Minobe. Next, they both find themselves in the hotel room with a sleeping Yukki. Mikos then can only try to make himself inconspicuous, sitting atop the hotel fridge sipping his beer.

Throughout the production, the audience is reminded that the events in discussion happened on and around those five days in March when the US went from threatening military action on Iraq to being at war. What is lost and is perhaps purposely tangential is the war itself. There is a moment in the play when Minobe muses, “This is probably my estimation, but probably after three days we’ll leave this hotel and each of us’ll go back to our lives, but, by then, probably according to my estimation I think that the war is going to be over.” Minobe and Yukki decide that for the duration of their liaison, they will not turn on the news to find about the war. Minobe, like many of us, wished for something that was quick, easy, casual. Five Days in March is a reminder that we are still at war and that, since the beginning, this war has been a side note, something that has been happening outside and away from us. The production prompts us to wonder how long we can hide out and divert our attention.

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