nytheatre.com review by Jack Hanley
August 15, 2012
Writer and performer Yokko takes us on an intimate exploration of personhood in her autobiographical show Baldy, a story set in her native country of Japan and in the battlefield of her mind. She opens the show with a lyrical metaphor. She is standing at the shore of a sparkling ocean and longs to see what lies beyond the vast waters. But she is immobile; her legs are stuck deep in the sand.
Yokko is a vibrant storyteller with a captivating stage presence. We are first introduced to the twenty year-old Yokko whose dream of independence from her brutish and aloof father finally comes true. But when she leaves her rural family home to live in her own Tokyo apartment she becomes haunted by restless voices in her head. Each voice is given a name and each has its own personality. With rigorous stagecraft, Yokko populates the stage by jumping from voice to voice. They argue and doubt each other, and all of them are consumed with a fear of angering and disappointing their father.
The cracked and delicate foundation of her identity collapses when she is struck by a disease that causes all of her hair to fall out. Worse, the medical treatment for her condition causes her skin to blister and peel. While still in doubt of her father's love for her, she must return to his home and eventually be hospitalized. Wrapped in bandages from head to toe, she feels at first like she is locked in a prison of solitude. The badgering voices in her head grow louder and grumpier, but new, more hopeful voices begin to speak. One is that of child named Zero who sees infinite possibilities before her. Another, a voice of a mystic, beckons Yokko to a place where the seeds of her true beauty lie.
Baldy is a tale of spiritual triumph and an intriguing view of Japanese social mores. When not portraying the voices in her head, she presents us with humorous and heartbreaking snapshots of her family and her culture. With so many storytelling devices going on Yokko takes the risk of losing a coherent story. Her risk pays off. What we get is a textured and compelling portrait of girl overcoming doubt, fear and disease, as she becomes a woman of hope, strength and presence. Yokko has nurtured her seeds of beauty, they rooted, and in this unforgettable work of theatre, they have blossomed.