REVIEWS OF SAKE WITH THE HAIKU GEISHA
Randall David Cook’s new play, “Sake With the Haiku Geisha,” a collection of five anecdotes inspired by the playwright’s own experience as an English-language teacher in Japan, is an often observant, witty evening about the ways in which other cultures can unexpectedly impinge on our own individual experience… Elegant and precise… It is at its best in the first half of the 100-minute, intermissionless evening, as three 20-something English-language teachers are invited to share their stories on the last night of their visits to Japan. The uptight British graduate of Oxford, the gay but virginal American Southerner, and the hostile and sarcastic Canadian woman reveal small epiphanies that have affected their ways of dealing with loss, isolation and death, epiphanies that have their origins in the confusing culture in which they find themselves.
Randall David Cook’s play, a quintet of tales based on his experiences as an English teacher in rural Japan, explores the translucent reciprocal gaze between two cultures: the Westerners’ often comic bewilderment with the Japanese, and, more poignantly, the eager curiosity of their hosts. The script, an amalgam of glib satire, stray sentimentality, and Noh-inspired parable, suffers from an uncertainty of tone, but within the clutter are moments of subversive clarity.
An engrossing examination of cross-cultural confusion… Playwright Randall David Cook has set himself the difficult task of depicting the collision of East and West by using theatrical elements from both cultures to create Sake With the Haiku Geisha. Cook cleverly entwines five short plays — a number with significance in Noh drama — while giving equal opportunity to Western and Eastern viewpoints. The happy result is an unusual subject presented in a most appealing way… Cook displays a pleasingly ambitious talent.
Drawing from his experiences, Cook has crafted a most beguiling narrative about Japanese cultural graces and the double-sided impenetrability of clashing cultures. Structured around the stories of three foreign teachers in a tiny Japanese village, and two natives, it is an enchanting tale.