POST: FringeNYC's 'Legend of Oni' - #ogrescanbedivastoo

Friday night, I got to experience story time but for adults with way more drama than stories I remember as a kid. I was super excited after a boring and bleak summer filled with bouncing between one job to another in frightening anticipation of school. I could finally unwind and watch myself The Legend of Oni.

The venue was an intimate space where the seats were close to the stage, which made me feel more immersed into this world of Oni, which are mythological Japanese ogres. My only regret is that I did not pay much attention to the ticket collector’s recommendation about sitting close to the screen. The screen had a vital function which I realized as the play began: it translated every line the characters acted in their native tongue. I was sort of far and at a bizarre angle to the screen - shame  on me! But I loved that they chose to keep the language, it made me feel like an honored audience member.

The play began with the thunder of loud drums, which I was totally not expecting it but definitely created an atmosphere. I freaked out and I watched others jump too as the loud drum began and the frizzy haired storyteller/witch crept onto the stage. Shortly after, other characters joined and they sang about mankind’s corruption and the complete ugliness of the Oni - I can definitely say that they were quite unfabulous ogres with long spiky hair. The appearance not only created a sense of shock, but bestowed on me a desire to run on stage with a flatiron and some hair products to beautify it. That thing was all types of ugly, BUT had a very fashionable Kimono which I wish I could have gone home with.

Seriously though, all the characters from the mountain Gods to the Oni to the witch and the father definitely shopped at the historical equivalent of Zara, but for mythological creatures. #ogrescanbedivastoo

As the scenes began unfolding, I realized that my perception of the story was slightly completely wrong. Every character who was introduced, I thought was a woman. But as time went on, I slowly realized that every male character introduced was played by a woman, from the father to the brother to the mountain gods.  They were so convincing and intriguing that I honestly think my brain short wired into thinking some women were men. femme fatale: theatre edition. Bam.

Once my brain settled the gender bender paradox, I started to swell with the amount of D-R-A-M-A. I started shifting closer and closer to the stage (leaning over my fellow audience members shoulders) as the father killed off his family and everyone close to him. The coldness and heartlessness of the methods of the killings left me feeling pretty uneasy. What made the play more thrilling was how each person he eliminated turned Oni, sought revenge and forty minutes into the play everyone felt betrayed by the Father's quest for power.  All I know, is that they went from pulling flutes and fans out their kimonos to sing happy songs to now pulling out swords. It kind of reminded me of the gossip and shockers that unveil as you watch Pretty Little Liars, except no Oni were pretty and I think the play took lying to a new level. 

As time went on, amends were made, then mistakes, then amends, then betrayal. It was all too reminiscent of life - think: everything is going great until you get a left kick to the forehead.

As the play wrapped up and I was presented with morals and tribulations - I could not help but to get sentimental. As hard as life gets, people can actually change and evolve. And although we tell ourselves this is not the case, the truth is that a great deal of the resistance to change is pride.  

As the ogres and samurai took their bows, in celebration the actors invited the audience to take pictures with them. The venue unleashed a rainbow of colors as all the actors in bright kimonos flooded the floor to greet with eager playgoers. Now, while I do know it is rare for actors to meet with audience, the truth is I was shy and intimidated by the intensity of their craft. Besides that, I think most would be pretty alarmed to get a selfie next to an Oni, an ogre. It was pretty amazing to watch a Japanese myth spill into real life. Achievement Unlocked!

- Justin R.


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The Legend of Oni
Musical Company OZmate