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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Morgan O-Yuki, Geisha of the Gilded Age
By Elyse Sommer
O-Yuki was actually more interesting than her wealthy relatives by marriage, all of whom except her husband's sister snubbed her. No wonder that she's been the source of a musical and a best selling novel (Arthur Golden's Memoir of a Geisha). However, this small bio-drama is something special. As written by Ventfort Hall's late resident historian Natsuko Ohama it's uniquely site specific since the Morgan's Ventfort Hall estate is an apt symbol of the overall unwelcoming reception that led to Morgan's taking his young wife to live in Paris.
The hallway of the mansion-cum-museum has been set up as an intimate theater to allow O-Yuki to be welcomed to Ventfort at last. Granted our narrator and star is O-Yuki's ghostly alter ego the lovely young actress Mayu Iwasaki and the story she tells us spans her very eventful 82 year life.
Though the he entire Ventfort hallway — including a balcony where Yuki introduces herself — serves as the stage, set designer Carl Sprague has created a wonderfully atmospheric and authentic small stage within the grand overall setting. I can't compare the current production to the 2006 premiere with a different actor and director but no doubt the gorgeous kimonos worn by the Japan born Ms Iwasaki which belonged to her own grandmother add to the visual pleasures of this reprise.
While the play runs just a little over an hour it covers a lot of ground: We see a young woman forced by her family's financial circumstances to become a breadwinner, with the most profitable career path open to young women at the turn of last century being that of a Geisha. While Yoki doesn't seem to mind the Geisha's life she does dream of finding not just a prime patron but a husband. And though the Eastern culture smitten George Morgan seems the answer to that dream, the marriage comes about only after the young man she's loved rejects her for a wealthy young and "pure" woman.
And so, though this across-the-cultural-borders union isn't exactly a match made in heaven, Yoki and George stay together (in Paris) until his death. The problems of being relegated to outsider status, a citizen of no country, continue when she returns to Japan in 1936 where her situation is exacerbated by the Japan-US hostilities. Yoki nevertheless remained in Japan to the end of her life.
No doubt the Morgans would be amazed to see the woman they regarded as an imposter doing this tell-all turn in the mansion that was one of many of the area's palaces built by the one-percenters of the Gilded Age. But then, they woul be equally amazed to see it all pristine as ever, but open as a museum and theater to the other 99% visiting the Berkshires for the summer.