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A CurtainUp Review
In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel
By David Lohrey
In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel had its premiere at the Eastside Playhouse in 1969.
Although not a dramatic success, it was successful in its experimental use of language— an odd, and as far as I know, unique system of truncated speech, whereby sentences end with prepositions and rarely contain objects. ("The bar is closed until." . . ."The constant unbearable of.") On the stage, this technique is remarkably fluid and the words' meaning is surprisingly easy to grasp. It creates somewhat the same effect achieved by directors who have had actors step on each other's lines.
While the title sounds quite exotic Williams did little with it. We are unmistakably in Williams' world, but it is doubtful that a ticket to Japan would get you there. The first act's exchanges between Miriam (Laura Siner) and Bar-Man (Toshiji Takeshima) hint at cross-cultural themes and one stays alert for an early version of Lost in Translation. However, we soon realize that while the characters are lost, being in Tokyo has nothing to do with it.
Patrick Larsen's set is just right for a hotel bar in modern Tokyo. He obviously know that Tokyo bars serving Western-style cocktails prefer Western interior design and has fashioned a suitably generic 1960s look. Incidental music by Joe Gianono follows suit with a sound that might be heard in a Tokyo bar, but wouldn't turn heads in Cleveland or San Jose.
The play is really an extended monologue for Miriam who plays a familiar Williams type. The big difference between her and characters like Blanche Dubois or Hanna Jelkes is that she is hard to like. Her relentless harassment of the Bar-Man creates an oppressive atmosphere. She is obnoxious and, in today's world, would be arrested as a sex offender. By the second act, she is calling herself four-letter words and the audience must finally admit that she is little more than what she says. Her insistence on going to Kyoto without her neurotic and by now sick husband (Niall O'Hegarty) has none of the metaphorical resonance associated with Chekhov's Moscow. After seeing Miriam give the Bar-Man a working over, we understand what poor Mark has been through in fourteen years of marriage.
The production does little to smooth the hard edges of this monotonous play. The Bar-Man is the only character who doesn't get on one's nerves, although he's virtually silent in n the second act. Director Cyndy A. Marion directs the first act well and makes the most of Williams' often funny lines. However, the by-play with Miriam's mirror, the Bar-Man's over the shoulder cocktail shaking, the off-stage party of diplomats which all create a nice physicality, largely disappears in the second act.
Hannah Jelkes in Night of the Iguana declares that she can accept and forgive all human faults except cruelty. In Miriam, Williams created a character whose behavior strains toward the cruel and is thus hard to like or to watch.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide