I could not have been seated next to a worse gang of viewers for last night's premiere of The Room Nobody Knows, also playing tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. at FringeArts. Some Temple students were in attendance, seemingly against their will, along with their inability to stay cool every time another penis-shaped object was paraded across the stage.
Which happened a lot.
Niwa Gekidan Penino, a Japanese theater company, brings director Kuro Tanino's Room to Philly after touring elsewhere in the U.S., as well as Japan and Europe.
The narrative: it's one brother's birthday, and his younger brother, instead of studying for exams, prepares phallic tables, chairs, flutes and representations of the older brother's head as gifts. Okay, fine, I snort-laughed a few times too.
There's a creepy series of moments in which the brothers wrestle, kiss, contort into a 69-position, nightmarish creatures with horns on their heads come into play — it's just the kind of thing most Americans are totally not ready to digest without cringes and giggles. That doesn't mean it's not worth checking out just for the pure shock value.
Perhaps obviously, there's a fair bit of individual interpretation to be had. If you're up for some WTF-ery, give it a shot. Who knows what you'll take away from it. I was actually really impressed with the mosaic-tiled set, a split-in-half little window of scenery, with the two brothers cramming themselves into a crawlspace-like bottom half for much of the story. The actor who plays the younger brother also gave an emotionally fraught and compelling performance, especially considering some of the stuff he had to do (stuff a giant plastic penis with a human head down the front of his underwear, etc.)
Director Tanino is a former psychiatrist, and during the post-show talkback (translated from Japanese by a very hardworking woman I felt deserved a hug), he said he asked his mother, also a psychiatrist, to analyze his play. He said she laughed through the entire thing, and then told him she couldn't offer an analysis.
Alas. Sometimes a penis chair is just a penis chair.
Get tickets here.