“Forbidden Colors” at La Mama

By Jazmin Justo

Forbidden Colors” is the first LGBTQ themed production produced and directed by Sachiko Sunakawa. The play was inspired by the 1950 novel written by Yukio Mishima, famed for her writings about taboo topics in Japan’s society. “Forbidden Colors” performance at the first world premiere at LaMaMa Theatre from August 04 to August 07.

“Forbidden Colors” is a tantalizing story about a young man named Yuichi (Maeken), whose handsome face captures the awe of everyone around him. Despite his beauty, Yuichi is sucked into a world full of greed and deception as he navigates through his own sexual ambiguity. The play introduces Yuichi who just agreed to an arranged marriage. At a resort where he is staying with his fiancé (Monica Charline Brown), he captures the eye of a women-despising old man (Tom Paolino) who seeks vengeance for his failed past marriages. Upon meeting Yuichi, the old man gains the Yuichi’s trust and instructs him how to distant his emotions towards women and to embrace his sexual identity.

This leads to several hit and miss encounters with Yuichi capturing the eye of seductive mistresses (Camara Mc Laughlin) as well as young schoolboys (Jose Gamo) who affectionately call him “Yu-Chan”. As Yuichi indulges in pleasure while harboring agony and guilt, often reflected by the mellow tune of the cello. The background video on the stage helps set the landscape of the mood through pop-art neon photos or scenic images. Throughout the play, the audience can’t help but feel sympathy for Yuichi as he is trapped in the schemes and manipulation of the old man as well as his own duties as a son towards satisfying his mother’s wishes to marry and have family. Meanwhile, he leaves a series of broken hearts, increasing his guilt for being gay and for lying yet he doesn’t know who to trust or who to turn to. At one point, he even attempts to run away to escape it all only to be snared back to his deals with the old man. The story ends with a cliffhanger of the count’s wife disappearing and Yuichi accepting his job working with the count.

The play takes an interesting spin from the original novel with its cliffhanger. An interview with the director Sachiko Sunakawa, informed us of how she took bits and pieces of the novel that stood out to her the most, and was able to make a collage of the story without losing its original meaning. The play is relatable at various aspects such as the conflict between self-desires and fulfilling family obligations, the meaning of true beauty, the compromising of traditional values for contemporary changes, and the most present theme of how to accept one’s sexual identity in a world that is not ready to accept it. The small cast did an exceptional job with only five actors. Everyone was able to recite multiple soliloquies and monologues while changing character roles gracefully. The cast is also very diverse considering that the original characters from the novel are all Japanese, which singles out Yuichi as unique in the play. Maeken’s performance is his first stage debut and Jose Gamo is a rising Pilipino-American actor who recently starred in Ma-Yi Theatre and Fordham University production “Orphan of Zhao” (2015).

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