From Shakespeare’s warrior, Lumina Studio creates Kabuki Coriolanus

One would think that a Kabuki-inspired adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus would be enough of a challenge to be tackled by a professional theater company. Factor into that equation two separate casts of over 45 student actors, some tackling Shakespeare for the first time, some for the 24th time. With no auditions. Sound like a recipe for chaos?

Not for Artistic Director David Minton. Under his thoughtful direction and intelligently adapted script, this production soars with creativity and dramatic life, re-imagining the tragedy of Roman warrior Coriolanus to a fictional ancient Japan replete with ghost choruses and giant puppet demons. This isn’t your “traditional Shakespeare”, but in adaptation explores Shakespeare’s themes so deftly that the tragedy shines anew, raging as bright and powerful as the warrior himself.

Credit is due in no small part to Shizumi Manale, who collaborated with Minton to provide traditional Kabuki choreography and staging. Staged in the round, with a set by Jim Porter resembling a modern take on a sumo arena, Manale’s work as choreographer helps establish the theatrical world of Coriolanus’ Japan.

Some faces from Kabuki Coriolanus

Some faces from Lumina’s Kabuki Coriolanus

Kabuki, much like the Italian commedia dell’ arte, is a theatrical style that is composed of stock character types and situations. Manale uses these types to great effect in helping establish Shakespeare’s characters, from the groveling and buffoonish citizens to the slimy, almost spider-like tribunes, and the heroic and prideful samurai warriors. The costumes, designed by Wendy Eck and Dianne Dumais, are all beautiful creations and add so much depth to the overall world of the show. With all the designers working with Minton, the Kabuki concept does not overpower the plot, but works within the confines of the play to engage the audience and support the two casts in bringing this tragedy to life.

The plot follows Coriolanus as he first quashes an uprising of Roman citizens who cannot pay the high price for rice, then onto the battlefield against the Romans’ sworn enemies, the Volscians. Coriolanus wins the day for his people and returns to Rome in triumph, where he is asked to become a tribune of the people. Fearing his rapid ascent will surpass their power, the two tribunes Brutus and Sicinius turn the people’s will against the proud Coriolanus, which results in his banishment from Rome and family.

Highly Recommended
Kabuki Coriolanus

Round House Silver Spring
8641 Colesville Road
Silver Spring, MD 20910
2 hours, 30 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $15
Remaining performances:
Sat and Sun, Dec 14 and 15
at 2pm and 7pm
Details and Tickets 

Turning to his sworn enemy Aufidius, leader of the Volscians, he plans to conquer the city that had so betrayed him, but will he destroy everything that stands in his way towards redemption, including his mother and wife? I don’t want to give too much away!

While I was unable to see both of the casts perform (each gets two performances per weekend, rotating on and off), the Green ensemble worked well together and did a fantastic job in keeping the show moving smartly. Clocking in at 2 hours and 30 minutes without an intermission, this play, based on one of Shakespeare’s less-performed tragedies, is no easy feat to accomplish, but the whole ensemble keeps each moment engaging and fun to watch.

James Sleigh is loud and boastful as the skilled warrior general Coriolanus, but thoughtfully carries the quieter moments with his family, especially in his relationship with his mother Volumnia. He also works his way through some impressive fight scenes without breaking a sweat!  Callie Gompf-Phillips, who plays Volumnia, does a brilliant job in interpreting one of the most possessive and intimidating women in Shakespeare’s canon with a poise and skill that belies her age.

Lumina Stage Theater does an incredible job with their production of Kabuki Coriolanus, which has only one weekend left at Roundhouse Silver Spring. Hope you can see it.

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Kabuki Coriolanus by William Shakespeare . adapted and directed by David Minton . co-artistic director Shizumi Shigeto Manale . Puppet design and creation:  Gretchen Schermerhorn and Franc Rosario (Pyramid-Atlantic) . Set design: Jim Porter . Japanese Theatre Choreography: Shizumi Shigeto Manale . Choreography: Billy Higgins . Sound/Videography: Ron Murphy . Lighting design: Zach Dalton . Props master: Jeff Struewing . Costumes: Wendy Eck and Dianne Dumais . Original music composed by Wendy Lanxner, and performed on stage by Lanxner, Roger Coleman and Mark Foley on Taiko drums . Produced by Lumina Studio . Reviewed by Michael R. Kelly.

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