Friends is the story of one man’s life turned upside-down when a family invades his small apartment determined to smother him with neighborly love. A darkly comic tale, Friends explores the nature of solitude and the cost of trying to maintain it.
Stage Manager Jennifer A. Hayden
Set Design Joe Koroly
Lighting Design Shannon Zura
Sound Design & Music Nick Rye
Costume Design Aileen McCulloch
Assistant Director Mary Scholl
Maria Möller. Middle Daughter
John Fidler. Grandmother
Kevin Glaccum. Father
Kimberly S. Fairbanks. Mother
Girard Rudasil. Younger Son
Jared Michael Delaney. Elder Son
Tina Brock. Eldest Daughter
Paul McElwee. Man
Amanda Schoonover. Youngest Daughter
Michael S. Drzik. Middle-Aged Policeman
Kristin Mikel Walker. Young Policeman
Sharon Geller. Building Superintendent
Sheila Garg. Fiancée
Michael S. Drzik & Kristen Mikel Walker. Reporters
I told a friend I was heading to Japan soon and he said, “Wow, that’s like going to another planet.” For most westerners this is somewhat true of Asia in general, and of Japan in particular. Historically isolated, the Japanese have preserved a society that treasures both artistic endeavor and strict conformity. Japan has never seen a popular social/political revolution. Japan’s sad distinction of being the only country to be attacked by an atomic bomb adds to it other-worldliness. We in the west simply cannot imagine how that affects a society.
In terms of theatre, and here I speak of contemporary theatre, Japan has been incredibly inventive (as is Butoh, a 50-year-old dance/theatre form) and, oddly, 20-40 years behind the ‘times.’ Abe’s 1967 play, Friends, (once considered odd and outrageous in Tokyo) has more in common with Ionesco and early TV comedy than with cutting-edge performance in the same era on the English-speaking stage. I think it’s a fair measure of Tokyo’s theatre scene of the time to mention that Abe had great difficulty finding actors who could speak realistically as opposed to chanting their lines in classical Japanese style.
Azuka Theatre Collective invited me to direct this show because I have studied traditional Japanese theatre (ask me about it, I’m a Noh-advocate) but I was quickly struck by the immediacy of the script. This immediacy (which is Azuka’s trademark) can be seen easily in slogans such as “American Family Association” and, indeed, “United We Stand.” Abe wrote for a company of actors who improvised his scripts as part of the writing process—this always creates bizarre stage directions and character antics. Furthermore, Donald Keene’s magnificent translation stays faithful to the Japanese habit of apology (a line we left out has the main character calling 911 and stating, “I’m very sorry to trouble you.”) and conversational cloudiness. (To westerners, the Japanese seem willfully vague in opinionated conversation.) But fear not, only minor adjustments were made to “westernize” the script.
Finally, I must point out Azuka’s heroism in choosing this difficult play with a huge cast. Not enough of this type of work gets produced because of the difficulty in translation and the financial strain on a small company. I am honored to direct for them and am very thrilled with and proud of my cast.
-Director’s notes by Greg Giovanni