BWW Review: KATSURA SUNSHINE'S RAKUGO Brings Traditions and Laughs to New World Stages
For comedy fans, most people would think a trip to the Comedy Cellar or Upright Citizens Brigade would be the top choice for a night out. However, Katsura Sunshine has brought a traditional Japanese form of "sit-down" comedy to the Theatre District.
Rakugo, a traditional form of comic Japanese storytelling has made its way to off-Broadway at New World Stages. Katsura Sunshine's Rakugo is as simple as American stand-up comedy; trading the microphone stand and stool for a simple fan and hand towel as his only props.
Sunshine's Rakugo not only brings laughs to New World Stages, but it also brings a unique perspective of Japanese culture from the eyes of a well-meaning pupil.
With a beautiful backdrop of a golden privacy screen, illuminated by traditional lanterns which hang across the proscenium are the perfect setting. It was eye-catching without being distracting, and set designer Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams should be proud of its simplicity.
Sunshine, who has lived in Japan for 21 years, is originally of Canadian descent. Born Gregory Robic, Katsura Sunshine was christened with his name by his rakugo master Katsura Bunshi VI. After living and working under his master for three hard-working years, his title is well earned and Sunshine is only the second Western rakugo master in the history of Japan.
My fondness of the show was to the short stories which Sunshine spoke about his life in Japan while acclimating to the culture and language. Peppered in between these anecdotes were two stories passed down from master to apprentice, from Katsura Bunshi VI himself.
Rakugo is an art form that might not be widely known in America, but it is clearly beloved by Japan. This is apparent why after seeing Sunshine's performance. The show is charming, thoughtful, and is guaranteed to bring a bit of sparkle.
Katsura Sunshine's Rakugo will run through January 2020 at New World Stages, and will feature different stories each month through its run. December is promised to be family-friendly stories, which January will feature more adult-appropriate content.