From the Heart / On The Island
nytheatre.com review by Natalie Pero
June 15, 2007
On the Island and From the Heart provide the complete theatre experience in one night. Both of these one-woman shows provide the apples and oranges necessary for a nice evening treat. They tell stories that illuminate various plights of Asians in a universal vocabulary that would chill any audience member. Both are written by their performers, which lends an ownership to both the performance and the message. I was politically and emotionally satisfied after the evening.
The night opens with On the Island, a piece centered around a prisoner without trial. The tone is set immediately by a curious blue curtain hanging from the ceiling like a waterfall. S.T. Shimi opens with a stunning and unexpected movement piece, including an aerial dance with the curtain. Her grace in the air and on the ground coupled with stunning lighting by Billy Munoz tells an entire story through poignant images and thrilling acrobatics. The music and text are at times abrupt, but always with purpose. I would be interested to see a silent interpretation of the piece and the effect of silence on Shimi's message.
From the Heart is without a doubt the orange of the evening treat. Jude Narita peels away at five Asian and Asian-American life experiences. Each story has a different tone, style, and costume, but all of them made me laugh out loud and a few made me cry. Narita had me questioning and answering and questioning again. In contrast to her fellow performance, her set is simple: just her, center stage. Narita is truly captivating. I admire theatre that can keep an audience thinking even after the performance and in days to come. I know I am still questioning and discovering things about Narita's piece and I am sure my fellow audience is in the same boat.
The conceptual differences in the pieces provide a dynamic experience. But what brings it all together is the universal message told. Both women use subtle humor and painful reality to set a mood and encouragingly challenge the audience. Not only would I recommend this theatre treat, I already have.