By Naomi Iizuka. Directed by Anthony F. Ingram. A Tempus Theatre production. At the Jericho Arts Centre on Wednesday, May 6. Continues until May 23
Watching Naomi Iizuka’s 36 Views is like engaging in a stimulating conversation with a lively interlocutor. As Iizuka spins intriguing variations on her theme of authenticity, her text is always smart and she expects you to keep up, but she’s never pretentious or obscure.
This American writer sets her story in the world of Asian antiquities—and forgeries, where there is more to absolutely everything than meets the eye.
Darius Wheeler is a suavely charming art dealer who isn’t above a little illegality. Shortly after meeting academic Setsuko Hearn, who specializes in pillow books (the gossipy, poetic journals of Japanese courtesans), Wheeler declares his love for her. It’s partly Hearn’s skepticism that turns him on. He describes her as “the woman who sees through his bullshit”. She describes him as “a man of many stereotypes”. Indeed, he mistakes her racial origins.
The world of visual art is all about the eye, about perception. And the eye is easily fooled by desire. We see in the new lover the answer to our yearning. And with works of art, we may see in a fake the treasure that will make our fortune or career.
Money puts wicked spin on notions of artistic value. If beauty were all that mattered, provenance would count for little.
Sexy, authoritative, and able to convey complexity in stillness, Michael Kopsa is perfectly cast as Wheeler. Young actor Lissa Neptuno delivers nicely contained work that includes lovely little ruptures of emotion. It’s not her fault that she’s too inexperienced to match Kopsa’s presence.
Valerie Sing Turner brings a pleasingly offhand style to the role of Clair Tsong, an angry multimedia artist who does restoration work for Wheeler. Annabel Kershaw and Keith Martin Gordey are solid as a mysterious woman and an older academic. Bert Steinmanis plays Wheeler’s assistant, John Bell. The role is pivotal. Unfortunately, Steinmanis overacts and misses the character’s considerable complexity.
The balance of director Anthony F. Ingram’s production is positive, however. In a stunning image near the beginning, a lavishly robed Japanese courtesan turns in circles as her clothes fly off her in a long ribbon. Later, in Corwin Ferguson’s projection design, lines of calligraphy spill onto the set like waterfalls. In these moments, beauty is its own reward.